Story Time With Sobo

Brent Sobleski is an ESPN.com blogger that previously served as a columnist and draft analyst for the OBR. Throughout the season, he will appear as a guest here on Cleveland Reboot and answer any pertinent questions relating to the Browns, the NFL, football and life in general.

Past Story Time With Sobo segments can be found here.

1. I am going to temporarily break the moratorium on Brandon Weeden analysis questions to ask this: Would you consider either Carson Palmer or Brady Quinn to be Weeden’s NFL ceiling?

SOBO:
Weeden’s ceiling is somewhere between Drew Bledsoe and Vinny Testaverde. He’s not quite as statuesque as Bledsoe, but he’s not the physical specimen that Testaverde was. The two areas all three quarterbacks are very similar in is having both tremendous arm talent and inconsistency. Bledsoe threw 12 or more interceptions (with a high of 27 in his second year) in 12 of his 14 seasons. Testaverde did the same 11 times in his career.

Weeden has played better than both as a rookie.

2. Regarding the Chiefs, how did it feel to watch a Romeo Crennel defense get dissected “in a good way?”

SOBO:
It’s a sad situation in Kansas City on so many levels. It doesn’t seem that long ago that they were one of the elite teams in the AFC. They got old very quickly.

I’m a fan of Romeo Crennel. I like the person. I like him as a coordinator. He’s simply never been head coach material. His laissez-faire attitude towards the locker room really allows the inmates run the asylum as everyone learned in Cleveland.

Cleveland, meanwhile, is getting to the point where they are winning some games the team should be winning. It’s a step in a right direction. And it was nice to seem the team rebound after it got punched in the mouth initially.

3. And to get the obvious question out of the way, are the Browns finally just beating teams that they should – OR have they caught some extraordinary breaks over the past three weeks?

SOBO:
It wasn’t long ago that Cleveland supposedly had one of the hardest schedules in the NFL entering the season. The opposite is now being argued by many. Any coach will tell you that a team can only beat who is on the schedule. Whether that schedule is as tough as initially envisioned or not isn’t part of the equation.

The telltale sign of legitimate improvement of this team will be the final three games of this season. Washington isn’t necessarily a good match-up, even without RGIII in the lineup. The zone stretch scheme has been troublesome for Browns’ big front line. Peyton Manning could very easily shred Dick Jauron’s simplistic defensive scheme. And Pittsburgh will still be playing for a playoff spot.

This is the point where the team is made or broken.

4. Onto more important questions – like backup defensive tackles. Is Billy Winn actually a better fit as an early down right end than Frostee Rucker (was) is?

SOBO:
Rucker a fine run down defender. And he’s shown a little more of a pass rush in recent weeks. The fact the Browns are finding a good balance within the defensive line rotation is keeping guys fresh and productive.

Winn is a player it seems we’ve discussed every single week. The fact the coaching staff is now taking full advantage of his talent is another positive. He’ll never be the bookend to Sheard that the team currently lacks, but he can be a productive player at both tackle and end within the team’s rotation.

5. Have we see two of Shawn Lauvao’s best games as a Brown over the past two weeks?

SOBO:
Not necessarily. He’s been more consistent – which is the problem we’ve discussed all along – but he’s gotten beat a few times as well (particularly against Oakland).

The offensive line has definitely gelled in certain areas. The pass blocking, in general, has been tremendous. The run blocking still needs to improve in certain areas. But it’s finally a season where the offensive line isn’t the root of many of the problems. Instead, it’s one of the team’s strengths.

6. I’ve been a supporter of Sheldon Brown for a while, but don’t understand the fan sentiment of moving him to safety. Care to offer some thoughts on this hypothetical move?

SOBO:
Hypothetically, it will be surprising to see Brown in Cleveland next season.

New President Joe Banner has a way of getting out of contracts or not re-signing older veterans even if they are still playing well. He doesn’t want sunk cost placed on players that may be on the verge of unproductive seasons.

I tend to agree that Brown could play safety for a year or two and potentially do a good job, but I’d be surprised if he’s on the Browns’ roster past this season.

7. This Browns’ season is beginning to reveal itself in distinct parts. If the first half reminded you of _______, then the second half has to be__________.

SOBO:
If the first half reminded you of GANDALF the GREY, then the second half has to be GANDALF the WHITE.

It’s Hobbit week, and I’m re-reading the book at the moment. But it actually applies to the Browns in a roundabout way.

The season was all but dead after starting 0-5. Nothing seemed to be going right for the Browns on what seemed to be an endless journey of failure. They battled but came up short.

The team has since experienced a rebirth. This is a young team that still has something to accomplish and are willing to fight to achieve some of their predetermined goals.

Just like Gandalf the Grey perished fighting a superior foe in the Balrog, he then returned to lead men to victory over Sauron. The Browns are doing the same. The difference will depend on whether this group of players can finish like Frodo did.

8. And since the GM talk is starting to get heavy – I floated the idea that that upwards of half of the league’s teams have drafted as well as or better than Tom Heckert over the past three years. Since you know the draft, care to support or refute this idea?

SOBO:
Heckert has done a very nice job completely re-hauling this roster. It was once one of the oldest teams in the league, and he’s turned it into one of the youngest in a matter of two years. And the youth he’s added is also very talented.

Much like the draft itself, everything is situational. We could look at Houston or San Francisco, for example, and say they hit homeruns with likes of J.J. Watt or Aldon Smith. But would those same players be as successful in Cleveland?

It’s unlikely.

A league scout once told me that it’s amazing any player is ever successful in the league, because so much is based on extenuating circumstances. And that always has to stay in the back of your mind as you evaluate talent and look at said talent outside of Cleveland.

What I do know is that if you stand Heckert’s draft side by side to what the rest of the division has done in recent years they’re very comparable.

9. Speaking of GM’s – Mike Lombardi? No, really?

SOBO:
It should be described as due diligence at this juncture. Nothing more.

10. More future talk – there’s a possibility that Josh Cribbs doesn’t return to Cleveland in 2013. Any college prospects you feel could become NFL return men?

SOBO:
The odds of Cribbs not returning are pretty high at this juncture based on what we know of Banner and his history. The Browns really don’t have to look that far for a returner either after seeing what Benjamin can do this past weekend against the Chiefs. His speed is an added dimension to special teams.

If you have a question you would like SOBO to answer, email davekolonich@gmail.com

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Comments (10)

  1. Bill Adams

    Kind of a non-committal response from Heckert today.

  2. Max

    Sounded to me as if Heckert was firing the first salvo today. Now it is going to be tough for Banner to say “Tom decided to go in another direction”. It’s pretty clear now that Heckert wants to stay, and if he does leave, everyone will know it is because Banner wanted to usurp his authority. There is also a very real possibility that Banner may not care at all how he is perceived by the public and the media, so it may not matter.

    On Sunday, I was wondering if Weeden could be Carson Palmer 2.0. Maybe it’s the red hair, maybe its because they both wear #3. Maybe its because they both trust their arms a little too much sometimes (that’s a nice way to say they both make some gawd awful reads). Right now, I say we run with Weeden until something better comes along (either dumb luck via free agency {Brees to Saints} or through the draft). I don’t know that there is anyone in this year’s draft worth taking a look at.

    And Billy Winn’s play has made me forget all about drafting Hughes in the 3rd round (who has been decent in his own right). In my mind, Winn was the 3rd rounder and Hughes was the 6th rounder. I live a quarter mile from where Hughes played high school ball, and I’ve met a few people around town (ok, 3 of the girls who work at Great Clips) who know him from back in the day and say he is a great person, so it’s nice to see him succeed relatively close to home.

    My poll answer- yes, but only if we had to

    I just don’t want to go through another roster purge where the next ego on the block reshapes things in “His” image

    • jimkanicki

      i liked heckert’s responses. shurmur should take note. he said it was no big deal and he acted like it was no big deal.
      based on heckert’s seeming weakness to call other GMs bluffs on draft days (t-rich, taylor, even josh gordon to an extent), i’d thought he’d be someoen i’d want to play poker with. however i have to re-think that after today’s convo. heckert played good poker today.

      • Being put into that position, he came across as completely professional – which is a rare thing when we compare past expansion FO people and coaches.

        • Max

          yeah, i don’t imagine he’d be sending any f-bomb laden emails to Buffalo fans anytime soon

          • Considering Holmgren’s behavior earlier this year regarding the Dallas HC job and his “press conferences” and the way Pat Shurmur has always dealt with the media, it says A LOT that Heckert is a true professional. To emerge from the swamp of Lerner and Holmgren to do what he is done is pretty remarkable.

    • Max’s comments always get me thinking in a different manner. For example, if Heckert goes and GM X and Coach Y come to town next year and say the Browns make the playoffs. What percent of the Browns fan base (outside of us on Reboot) will even think about Heckert anymore? These kind of thoughts have to examined at the higher levels too.

  3. jimkanicki

    the ‘weeden ceiling’ question came up in a thread a frowns this week. context was quick/dirty stat comparison of weeden v mccoy.
    my take was that while colt seems a jeff garcia ceiling who could ‘gut’ his way to the playoffs, then lose; i see weeden as a flacco ceiling who with the right coaching and team could get you to a SB and with the potential to grow into an eli manning. long way to go of course.

    • The Flacco comparison is a good one. Personality wise, Flacco is goofy. And I think it was you who astutely observed that Weeden “plays the role” of a professional QB better than he actually “is” a professional QB. Or something like that. Everyone is so caught up in Weeden’s age, but beyond the physical stuff, I wonder if deep down he really wants to break his body for the next 6-7 years.

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