Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cleveland News and Notes

News Flash: Antwan Jamison is Pretty Good

The Cavaliers won a close one in D.C. to go up 3-0 in their first round playoff series. The last two games really shouldn't have been as close as they were, score-wise. Game 2 was decided by 7 points, while Game 3 ended with a 6 point lead. The third game was about as ugly as it could be without resulting in a loss. The Cavs blew a 17 point lead in the third quarter before finally getting back on track in the fourth.

A performance like this should make Cleveland fans nervous because this Wizards team is far from a playoff contender. Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler (Washington's 1st and 3rd best players, respectively) have been sitting injured on the bench the whole series and this is the best effort the Cavs can put up? The only reassuring thought I can draw from the Cavs play as of late is that it is essentially a reflection of the regular season, where they tended to play down to the level of poor teams but doing just enough to win. On the flip side, the Cavs would elevate their game in the same way against the top teams.

Coach Brown needs to do a better job of keeping his team focused, especially with a big lead. It's difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem, but it's happened enough to provide some drama in the first round this year.

Cleveland is very fortunate Miami is on its way out of the playoffs, given the nightmares they've been causing Coach Brown the last few weeks. It's time for the Cavs to act like the 2nd seed and play a complete game; Detroit and Chicago will be far less forgiving.

Charlie Frye Unemployed

Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.

I’ve been trying my best to ignore the Browns this off-season, but what they did in the draft this year defied expectations.

I’m stoked that they drafted offensive tackle Joe Thomas with the third pick. The offensive line was one of the team’s worst elements last year, contributing to an inconsistent running game and a constantly scrambling and injured QB corps. Plugging Thomas in with free-agent acquisition Eric Steinbach will vastly improve the O-line. Center LeCharles Bentley is a long-shot to return healthy this year, but will be available for what could be a formidable offensive line in 2008. Thomas was far from the sexy pick, but was the best fit for Cleveland and will make an immediate impact.

I’m still on the fence about the Brady Quinn acquisition (it’s a pretty lonely fence too). With so many gaping holes on the depth chart, I figured quarterback was not going to be a concern going into this year’s draft; drafting yet another QB would be a luxury, not a necessity. Which is why I was somewhat surprised when Phil Savage, the GM, traded up to snag Quinn with the 22nd pick.

Quinn essentially displaces Charlie Frye at QB next year, despite the bogus claims that there will be any competition between the two young players. Frye has a slight edge on Quinn in experience, but Romeo Crennel is very high on Quinn, since his ear has been tuned to good friend Charlie Weis this off-season.

I truly pity Frye, who was never given a chance to succeed in Cleveland with a leaky O-line, inexperienced receivers, a weak running game, and a coaching staff in a constant state of flux. Cleveland QBs were sacked 54 times in 2006, trailing only Detroit and Oakland. Despite this, Frye had the fifth highest pass completion percentage in the league at 64.3%. One of Frye’s greatest strengths was his ability to direct the offense and analyze plays; an ability he was never able to truly utilize due to the poor opportunities afforded him by the offensive line.

I’m obviously a big Frye supporter and the fact that analysts keep emphasizing Quinn’s Ohio roots and have christened him the face of the franchise already rubs salt in the wound. Many seem to have forgotten that Frye also hails from Ohio as a life-long Browns fan and played for Akron University. Frankly, I’m weary of Quinn’s ego and how he will react to his initial challenges and failures.

Quinn may be the superior quarterback, but my main concern is how he will handle the constant pressure he’ll face in the pocket. The line has been significantly upgraded to accommodate him, but I still wonder how Quinn’s development will differ in Cleveland as opposed to a more established team. Quinn will need a lot of help to succeed in his rookie year. Hopefully the coaching staff and fans are more patient with their latest quarterback.

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