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Four Downs with Dawgs by Nature

Earlier this week, I took some time with Matt (aka Bernie19Kosar) of Dawgs by Nature to swap some insight on our teams before they meet in Cleveland for the Browns' and Packers' preseason opener on Saturday night. We were naturally excited to talk about football again instead of lockouts and PR tactics and stupid stuff. So without further ado, let's get to the football!

APC: Pat Shurmur, nephew of former Packers DC Fritz Shurmur, took over this season as Browns head coach. Did Mike Holmgren's relationship with the Shurmur family have anything to do with his hiring? And what do you expect Pat to do differently than his predecessor, Eric Mangini?

DBN: At some level you have to believe it did. When the Browns job became open, the names associated with the job were highly accomplished guys (Jon Gruden, Jon Fox, etc.). For Shurmur to be such a dark-horse candidate, and really end up running away with the job leads me to believe that not only was Holmgren familiar enough with Shurmur, but also he felt like it was a head coach that the front office could work with. The inability for the Front Office and Eric Mangini to see eye-to-eye was the ultimate reason for his firing. That and getting blasted by the Steelers.

More to come after the jump.

APC: Do you feel that Colt McCoy is indeed the quarterback of the future for the Browns franchise? And do you think that the front office has surrounded him with enough weapons to be effective this season?

DBN: I'm hopeful. But I see the things that could end up holding him back. He showed flashes last season of being a good quarterback. Then he would follow that with a pop fly that ended up in Ed Reed's arms. McCoy is in the perfect place for him. He is surrounded by Quarterback focused coaches and is being thrust into an offense that values accuracy over arm strength. If he isn't productive here, he won't be productive anywhere. I think he has this full season to convince Holmgren and Heckert. If not, the Browns have the ammo (two first round picks) to go after Andrew Luck.

As for his surrounding weapons, the front office likes the WR situation. I think Greg Little has the ability to be a star in this league, but needs to be better on focusing on the field. Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi are in make or break seasons. Reading everything that is coming out of camp this year, I think that Jordan Norwood is a real sleeper. Plus, the Browns may have the deepest TE unit in the NFL. It's not star studded, but the cupboard isn't bare.

APC: It seems that the Browns wanted to improve their defensive front seven with NT Phil Tayor and DE Jabaal Sheard, as well as converting back from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front. Do you think the defense will respond quickly and improve right away this season?

DBN: Rob Ryan ran one of the most complex defenses in the NFL. Already players like TJ Ward are saying that he feels like he is playing faster because he isn't doing as much thinking on the field. In the 4-3, the defense will be able to react more instead of processing decisions. Jabaal Sheard has looked great in camp and has been going against Joe Thomas everyday. When you practice against the greatest offensive lineman to ever walk the Earth, it can only be a good thing for the young DE. I don't know if the Browns will be better, but they will be younger and more athletic.

APC: I'll ask this of each preseason opponent. What are your best-case, worst-case, and most likely scenarios that the Browns could play out this season?

DBN: Worst case scenario is easy. Colt McCoy plays like a 3rd round QB and Peyton Hillis breaks down again and we win 2-4 games. I don't think that will happen. Instead, I think McCoy makes strides and the young nucleus of this team (Ward, Haden, McCoy, Little, etc.) take a step forward and become one of the better young teams in the NFL. We still play in a grinder of a division, so the record may not show it, but I personally believe if we see growth at the QB position and win 6 games, that will be a great season for the Cleveland Browns. (Oh and the Falcons stink up the joint! We have their first rounder).

My thanks to Matt and Dawgs by Nature. Head over there soon to see my responses to Matt's questions.