Second-year man Charlie Frye will prove to be the Browns' long-sought franchise
quarterback, leading an invigorated offense with the help of two receivers back
from injuries, Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards. On defense, veteran
free-agent pickups Willie McGinest and Ted Washington will fit nicely into
coach Romeo Crennel's 3-4 scheme.
Frye's first test in crisis management came in the initial 11-on-11 contact
drill of training camp, when center LeCharles Bentley, the team's prize
free-agent acquisition, went down with a season-ending knee injury. Shocked
that the powerful Bentley could be felled so quickly, Frye kept his emotions to
himself and moved the offense downfield. "You blow a tire, you change it
and keep going," Frye says. "You can't let anyone see you
It's his cool
under fire as much as his athleticism that has impressed the coaches. Since the
NFL returned to Cleveland in 1999, the club has had one winning season (2002)
while rolling out quarterback after quarterback, including Ty Detmer, Tim
Couch, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia and Trent Dilfer.
Phil Savage first saw Frye during his junior year at Akron and was won over by
the passer's resilience while getting clobbered by Penn State in the opener of
his senior season. At the Senior Bowl four months later, Frye didn't look like
anything special during the week of workouts; once the game started he ran off
with the MVP award. Similarly, in his first training camp last summer Frye
seemed to elevate his game during two-minute drills. While Frye doesn't throw
the deep ball especially well, the Browns like his mobility and creativity.
"I see a guy who is going to make a lot of big plays after plays break
down," says Edwards.
may occur often this season because the offensive line is shaky at best, and
Frye, who started the last five games of the season, has barely played with any
of his top receivers: Edwards, who tore his right ACL and sat out the last four
games; Winslow, who missed all but two games of his first two seasons with
injuries; and Joe Jurevicius, a free-agent signee.
The defense has a
new look too-and with good reason. Last season the unit had the fewest sacks
(23) in the league and lacked the right personnel for Crennel's 3-4. They
addressed that issue through free agency ( McGinest and Washington) and the
draft, selecting linebackers Kamerion Wimbley (first round, Florida State),
D'Qwell Jackson (second, Maryland) and Leon Williams (fourth, Miami).
All these moves
reflect a franchise in transition. At the opening of camp 70 of the 91 players
had been brought in by Savage and Crennel in the last 18 months. Crennel has
set a modest goal for his team in 2006: simply improve on last year's 6-10
performance. Playing in the tough AFC North and having so many new and
inexperienced players in the lineup, the Browns may quickly discover that
winning two more games than they did in 2005 is the best-case scenario.