New coach Pat Shurmur said earlier this month that it would be a logical assumption that second-year quarterback Colt McCoy will be the Browns starter in 2011.
But NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi, the former Browns director of player personnel under coach Bill Belichick, said McCoy has some work to do in the weight room to be their long-term answer at the position.
McCoy, listed as 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, got his chance when Jake Delhomme suffered a high-ankle sprain in the season opener and backup Seneca Wallace suffered the same injury in Game 5 against Atlanta. McCoy also suffered a high ankle sprain at Jacksonville in Game 10.
For the season, McCoy went 2-6 as a starter with a rating of 74.5. He completed 60.8 percent and threw six touchdown passes, but had nine interceptions, six in the final two games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
"I think Colt did a really good job for a young quarterback,'' Lombardi said. "What he did this year was impressive. (As far as) durability, I think his body's got to get bigger, his body's got to get stronger, his arm's got to improve. He's got to follow the same thing that (Green Bay's) Aaron Rodgers did. For him to take the next step, he's got to really recondition his body.
"To play in the NFL, 16 games, 60 minutes and to take the pounding quarterbacks take, if your body's not ready it's not going to be able to do it. Now he's got to take the next step forward. That's going to be difficult until he changes his body.''
In a 20-minute interview at the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine, Lombardi discussed several Browns- and AFC North-related issues.
- Should the Browns pick a defensive lineman at No. 6 over Georgia receiver A.J. Green? "Where the Browns are in terms of their talent level, whatever player is the best player, I would prefer to pick a defensive lineman, the hardest thing to find in the draft. But they need outside receivers. Them and Baltimore might be the two slowest teams in football. They could certainly use A.J. Green, but they could use a defensive lineman, too.''
- Would the fact that they're expected to switch to a 4-3 defense change your mind? "Yeah, then you'd better make sure you have an end. Then you've got to figure out what you're going to do, manipulate the players you have on the roster. It's not as easy to go from 3-4 to 4-3 as people think it is.''
- If you're the New York Jets, do you sign Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes? "That's the hardest question the Jets have to answer this off-season -- 'Which player will still be the same player before we gave him the money?' That's a tough question. I know the Jets are talking about signing both of them back.
- "You have to be concerned about Santonio Holmes. He's had some off-the-field issues, (which) if he gets again he could be suspended for a year. That's got to the temper the contract. Braylon Edwards, is he the 16-touchdown guy he was in Cleveland? He improved this year. He caught the ball better than I've seen him going back to the year in Cleveland. I probably would go Edwards-Holmes. Both of them are very talented with different problems you have to face. The Jets know the players better than I do. Which one is going to behave the same once he gets paid?''
- How do you evaluate Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, the Heisman winner? "He still needs 10,000 hours of reps to hone his skills. The NFL is not like the NBA. You don't go from high school to start playing really good. The NFL takes time and your confidence goes down. To me, Cam Newton's got a huge 'Mother may I, step forward?' before he can become an icon.''
- How high can North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn go in the draft, considering he was suspended last season? "I think he's go in the top five. I think he's one of the best defensive linemen in the draft. Unfortunately he missed a year. I could see him being the first pick overall.''
- Who will be the Bengals' quarterback next year? I think it will be Carson Palmer. Who's won a standoff with (owner) Mike Brown? Now it's the season of 'Who's unhappy with their contract?' Once Carson spends time with (new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden) I think he will be (good for Palmer). You're not going to win that battle (with Brown). That's time-tested.''