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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Weekend musings: Another if-only

By Marla Published: January 10, 2011

Watching Baltimore running back Ray Rice on Sunday reawakened my second-guessing of former Browns GM Phil Savage's 2008 trades that brought defensive linemen Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers to Cleveland.

Green Bay's Williams cost the Browns their second-round pick in 2008, while Savage gave Detroit a third-round pick and cornerback Leigh Bodden for Rogers.

Rice was one of five running backs selected in rounds 2-4 in '08 before the Browns took linebacker Beau Bell 104th (fourth round). Along with Rice, tabbed 55th, were Chicago's Matt Forte (44th), Detroit's Kevin Smith (64th), Kansas City's Jamaal Charles (73rd) and Houston's Steve Slaton (89th). Forte, Rice and Charles rushed for over 1,000 yards  in 2010. Of those five, only Smith has not had a 1,000-yard season in his career and he came close with 976 yards his rookie year.

This may seem like a moot point since the Browns stole running back Peyton Hillis from the Broncos in trade last March. But Williams was  a 4-3 player who never fit the Browns' scheme. Rogers has been injured, overweight and hasn't lived up to his potential in Cleveland.

The Browns had no picks until the fourth round in 2008, with its first-rounder traded to Dallas in 2007 to move up to select Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. Running back Chris Johnson was taken by Tennessee two picks after the 22nd choice the Browns gave the Cowboys.

For years it has seemed the Browns have scrambled to make up for previous years' personnel blunders. Acquiring Hillis after botching a chance for a running back in 2008 is another one. Savage was well aware of the running backs available in the draft when he made the deals for Williams and Rogers. Seeing Rice's impact with Baltimore is just another reminder.

Other thoughts from the weekend's action:

* Best quote: Chris Berman on ESPN's ''Sunday NFL Countdown'' : "It's a night game, so Braylon Edwards makes the catch.'' Berman was commenting on Edwards' 18-yard reception to set up the Jets' game-winning field goal over the Colts.

* Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is now 3-1 in the playoffs, all three wins coming on the road. At age 24, he's won as many playoff games as New England's Tom Brady did before he was 25 and has more than Jets' legend Joe Namath. Although Sanchez didn't have a great game against the Colts, handing him to the Jets when ex-coach Eric Mangini traded down in 2009 is looking more and more questionable.

* My first thought was that Seattle's stunning upset of defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans after being an 11-point underdog would put to rest talk of re-seeding for the playoffs. But as Mike Florio pointed out on NBC's, that's likely to be revived if Seattle hosts the NFC Championship game at one of the loudest venues in the league. The Seahawks (7-9 in the regular season) have already beaten this weekend's opponent, the Bears, 23-20 on Oct. 17. I agree with Florio.

* Watching Marshawn Lynch's 67-yard TD run to clinch Seattle's victory made me wonder why the Buffalo Bills traded him on Oct. 5. The Seahawks gave up a fourth-round pick in 2011 and a conditional late-round pick in 2012, reportedly a sixth, for Lynch. The former first-round pick from Cal became expendable after Buffalo drafted C.J. Spiller in the first round in April. Reportedly the Packers and Eagles were also interested in Lynch. Wonder what the Packers, Eagles and Bills are thinking after watching Lynch break at least eight tackles, including a stiff-arm on Tracy Porter, during one of the best plays in post-season history.

* Notice the pained look on Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's face after coach Jim Caldwell called timeout before Edwards' catch? Caldwell did the same in the regular season against Jacksonville. That timeout gave Sanchez time to overrrule the play called by OC Brian Schottenheimer and coach Rex Ryan.

* Former  Browns coach Romeo Crennel has finally found his pass rusher in Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali. Savage gave Crennel the option of taking the nose tackle (Haloti Ngata) or the pass rusher (Kamerion Wimbley) in the  2006 draft. 

* Those who thought former USC coach Pete Carroll's rah-rah approach wouldn't work in the pros might be rethinking that after Seattle's victory. But we'll have to wait and see if his style runs its course in a few years.

* With Cleveland holding the sixth pick in the draft, Browns fans should keep a close eye on Auburn DT Nick Fairley in tonight's BCS title game. Fairley (6-5, 310) is currently No. 2 on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board and labeled by Kiper as "a top 10 lock.'' The Browns have found their nose tackle in Ahtyba Rubin.  But one can only dream about a defensive line with Rubin and Fairley, even if a switch to a 4-3 scheme seems like a very bad idea at this point. If Fairley declares for the draft, his biggest challenge may be dispelling the tag that he's a dirty player.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is No. 12 on Kiper's latest list.



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