Monday, June 16, 2008

Making Something Out of Nothing

ESPN is on an odd streak of producing insightful content that isn't painful for me to read. Go figure. I think I actually miss the days when the front page articles made me cringe.

Luckily, the magic of ESPN's archives allow me to go back in time, and discover more sub par analysis, courtesy of Dennis Green's favorite son -- Jeremy -- who apparently thinks that the Cleveland Browns are the favorite to win the AFC North this year. Green pimps the job Browns' GM Phil Savage is doing in this article, apparently unaware that perhaps not all personnel moves have positive results.

QB Derek Anderson -- Anderson was a restricted free agent entering the offseason, and the Browns put a first- and third-round tender on him to possibly scare away potential suitors. There was some talk about listening to trade offers for Anderson, but his experience in Baltimore taught Savage that a constant quarterback merry-go-round is not good for an offense.

Derek Anderson was certainly a breath of fresh air in 2007. I won't argue this point. Going forward though, is there any reason to think that Derek Anderson will be a better pro than Brady Quinn.

Consider these facts about Anderson in 2007:

Anderson completed 56% of his passes.

His 19 interceptions ranked him one behind Eli Manning for tops in the NFL (something that his completion percentage would indicate is a very real trend).

Chase Stuart, at PFR, adjusted QB numbers for strength of schedule, and Anderson's totals came out below average -- ranking below both Chad Pennington and Jon Kitna.

KC Joyner's bad decision % totals had Anderson at second worst, ahead of only Jay Cutler with a 4.7% bad decision rate.

Now, consider that Anderson went to the pro bowl in 2007 with all these problems with his game. Is that really a recipe for improvement the next season? If anything, the pro bowl invite seems like it would falsely inflate Anderson's value in his own mind, which can be dangerous for the development of a young QB.

The process here tells Savage to sell high -- try to cash in on his value and grab a few picks. What Green fails to mention is that Savage had no serious offers for Anderson because people are skeptical. The Browns had a soft schedule, and they missed the playoffs in no small part because Anderson imploded down the stretch. 10 wins is nothing to spit on, but as we'll see later, a repeat of that performance remains a pipe dream in Jeremy Green's mind.

RB Jamal Lewis -- The team made it a priority to get a deal done for Lewis, another great move. Lewis is coming off his best season (1,304 yards, 11 touchdowns) since 2003, and his legs looked rejuvenated last season.

Jamal Lewis DVOA (Yards/Carry) 2002-2007:

02- -1.7% (4.3)
03- 3.4% (5.3)
04- 3.5% (4.3)
05- -25.2%(!) (3.4)
06- -9.9% (3.6)
07- 1.9% (4.4)

The numbers absolutely support Jeremy Green's claim that his legs looked rejuvenated last year. Of course, that rejuvenation is who Jamal Lewis is and always has been throughout his career: a league average running back when healthy who is capable of having insane games when he plays the Cleveland Browns defense. He's probably the very best practice back in the NFL.

He will also be 29 before opening day, and with the mileage on his tires, it's safe to assume we've seen his peak. The smart move would have been for the Browns to invest the money they spent on extending Lewis elsewhere, but again, Phil Savage may not be the genius that Green likens him to be.

DTs Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams -- Acquiring Rogers in a trade with the Detroit Lions was one of those risks I talked about earlier.

Williams came over in a trade with the Green Bay Packers and will add more size to a defense that was one of the worst in the league against the run last season.

These are the two moves that will for sure determine how we remember Cleveland's offseason. This is who the Browns dealt their top two picks in the 2008 draft for.

I'm skeptical on Rogers, but KC Joyner pretty much says concisely what I am really thinking here:

Overrated: Shaun Rogers, DT, Detroit -- He was named the NFC player of the week at one point during the 2007 season, but his 4.4 YPA allowed on point-of-attack runs was quite disappointing for a player who had been dominant in that area in the past. And that wasn't all: 30 of the 97 POA runs directed at Rogers gained at least 5 yards, and 11 went for 10-plus yards.

Keep in mind that Joyner wrote this about a month before Rogers was dealt to Clevland: for a third round pick and shutdown corner Leigh Bodden. Cleveland has (or, at least had, prior to Daven Holly's season ending knee injury) corner depth, and though Rogers' impact on the Browns is yet to be seen, it's hard to see a scenario where the Browns' improved their team in this deal.

Also: Getting fleeced by Matt Millen is grounds for dismissal in 40 states.

I think Williams is a good pickup for the Browns D. Keep in mind though, the price on him was a second round pick -- a price that no team was willing to pay the Browns for Derek Anderson. Certainly, Anderson could have been a Packer for the price of Williams, but the Packers certainly don't think Anderson is franchise QB material.

Yes, it's early, but I'll make two predictions: The Browns will win the AFC North, and Savage will be the GM of the year.

Based on his track record this offseason, I'll make a bold prediction also: Dennis Green gets another job in the NFL before Jeremy Green gets a single prediction correct.

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