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Quarterback issues in Cleveland

September 17, 2010
By BRENT SOBLESKI, sports writer

Cleveland Browns' fans have grown accustomed to disappointment.

Week one of the new NFL season came and went, and the same end result was seen in the boxscore for the woeful Browns. A team which has seen only a single opening weekend win since the "rebirth."

Upon conclusion Cleveland and its coaches found another way to bumble away the game. A game which, for all intents and purposes, should have been an opening- day victory.

What makes this particular loss so disheartening is Cleveland could easily have been favored on paper. They had traveled to Tampa Bay to face an even more maligned Buccanneers' squad. A team which finished 3-13 a season ago. A young team starting inexperienced wide receivers, defensive tackles, and a second-year quarterback that had not played since week two of the preseason due to an injured finger.

Then the Browns jumped out to a quick 14-3 lead.

New starting quarterback Jake Delhomme found a way to throw away momentum late in the first half. While most of the blame will be strewn at the feet of the veteran signal caller, only his first interception can be fully shouldered by the former Carolina Panther.

During the aforementioned play, the quarterback injured his ankle. It was clear to everyone in the stadium and watching at home Delhomme became hampered by the injury.

Well, obvious to everyone but the team's coaching staff.

The current conundrum in Cleveland is flabbergasting. Delhomme may have been a big off season acquisition, but he was not the only quarterback the Browns' obtained this off season.

Forget the third-round selection of Colt McCoy.

Another capable veteran, Seneca Wallace, was also signed. Wallace's starting experience in Seattle was not completely arbitrary. In his limited time behind Seahawks' incumbent Matt Hasselbeck, Wallace tallied a 60.14 completion percentage, 2951 yards passing, 15 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions in his 14 career starts between 2006-2009.

Wallace was clearly a viable option when the team's starter became ineffective due to injury.

"We talked about that, but there was communication with (Delhomme) and the trainers," Browns' coach Eric Mangini admitted during his Monday press conference. "We have packages for Seneca and that's not something we're the least uncomfortable with."

Yet those packages were never seen. In fact Cleveland had spent a large chunk of training camp providing opportunities for Wallace to see the field in those aforementioned packages. The dual threat quarterback could have legitimately presented a different option for which Tampa Bay may not have been fully prepared.

Instead the staff continued to trot Delhomme out on the field.

If one were to ask any NFL scout about technique and mechanics regarding the

quarterback position, a right handed gunslinger's right foot and ankle are critical to drive through the football on each pass. If those areas are hurt, passes tend to float. This came to fruition in Delhomme's second half play. He proved to be completely ineffective.

Delhomme not only became highly inefficient as a passer after the injury, but completely incapable of moving about the pocket.

Seneca Wallace simply sat on the bench waiting for his number to be called.

A perfect example of a team forced to use a similar strategy this weekend presented itself in Philadelphia's loss to Green Bay. The Packers held an early 13-3 lead in the first half. Philadelphia' newly appointed quarterback, Kevin Kolb, had to leave the game after suffering a concussion. The infamous Michael Vick was his replacement. Much like the dynamic between Delomme and Wallace, Kolb and Vick are on complete opposite sides of the spectrum athletically. Vick gave a very good Green Bay defense fits passing for 175 yards and rushing for 103. The Eagles scored 17 points in the second half to pull within striking distance only to come up short.

While Wallace is not on the same level as Michael Vick, Tampa Bay's defense is not on the same level of the Packers.

It merely exemplifies a change, and what it can infuse into a team when nothing is working.

In the end Cleveland did not make the change which could have sparked some life into a listless second half effort. Seneca Wallace only saw the field once catching a pass from Joshua Cribbs from the wildcat formation.

Instead of making the change while a hobbled quarterback was put in a position to fail, Browns' coaches could not make the correct call simply allowing a back-up quarterback to do his job properly.

Now it is time for the Browns to move forward with or without Jake Delhomme, and his "twisted up ankle", as Kansas City is next on the schedule.

This isn't the same Chiefs of a year ago entering Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Some may remember the effort running back Jerome Harrison posted against KC's defense. Fantasy football players surely remember his galloping achievement. 286 yards and still seemingly counting. Harrison was placed in the record books with the third best individual rushing performance in NFL history.

Harrison's gains were not as impressive this past week only receiving nine carries against Tampa Bay after struggling through fumbling issues in the preseason. Instead, Cleveland has split the back's carries with Peyton Hillis providing the thunder to Harrison's lightning.

Cleveland is a team that wants to establish a strong running game, play disciplined defense, and win the special teams battle. Kansas City is now built very similarly.

The Chiefs have arguably the most talented running back duo in the NFL with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.

They are improving on the defensive side of the ball, under the guidance of former Browns' head coach Romeo Crennel. San Diego recently felt the wrath of the Chiefs' rookie sensations Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster in the return game.

Kansas City is coming off a tremendous victory over their division rival Chargers, 21-14. But it was a sloppy victory.

"If you're expecting something to look real fancy or nice, I don't think that's what you're going to see here with this Chiefs team." Chiefs' head Coach Todd Haley told the Kansas City Star. "That's alright. We're figuring out how to get things done."

Cleveland loaded up in the secondary this off season adding veteran Sheldon Brown via trade, and both Joe Haden and T.J. Ward in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. They may as well start walking themselves towards the line of scrimmage.

Chiefs' quarterback Matt Cassell is also coming off a dreadful performance completing only 10 passes on 22 attempts for 68 yards.

His receivers, Chris Chambers and Dwayne Bowe, are well known for their inability to consistently catch the football.

The Browns vs. the Chiefs could be another ugly contest, but Kansas is clearly riding the wave of momentum.

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