With the NFL exhibition season taking full flight this weekend, it's time for a Q&A, without the A, on our two area favorites, Cleveland and Detroit. Yes, there are plenty of questions. The answers are all developing.
First, the Browns:
•Who is the quarterback, Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn? Of course, if the receivers are as good as advertised it may not matter. Rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi have been the talk of camp, and joined with a healthy Braylon Edwards, David Patten, and Mike Furrey, the pass catchers could be a special group.
•Jamal Lewis will turn 30 in a few days, but he is an old 30. In 11 seasons in the NFL and in college at Tennessee he has touched the ball on 3,145 plays and has absorbed - and administered - plenty of contact on just about all of them. Can Cleveland get one more quality year from the burly running back? Jerome Harrison has a future, but the present depends on both of them.
•Can offensive lineman Ryan Tucker fit any more tattoos on his right arm? Or, more importantly, can he stay healthy enough to compete in more than one game and regain his starting spot? Joe Thomas, a Pro Bowler, and Eric Steinbach provide the right stuff on the left side of the line. Can Tucker right the right side?
•On paper, the linebacking corps seems solid behind the inside-outside combo of D'Qwell Jackson and Kamerion Wimbley. Plus, ex-Jet Eric Barton will start. But can this group stop the run, an essential in a division with Pittsburgh and Baltimore?
•Say what you want about Kellen Winslow, he is a dynamic athlete and tight end. Now he's gone. Can Robert Royal and Martin Rucker join Steve Heiden for a smooth transition?
•All-Pro Shaun Rogers leads what is a deeper defensive line. But can Corey Williams, a disappointment last year after two fine seasons in Green Bay, find a comfort zone in the 3-4 defense and put this group over the top?
Now, equal time and a half-dozen questions on the Lions:
•How can Detroit not be better? One way would be to hit the panic button and throw
No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford right into the fire at quarterback. Can Daunte Culpepper play well enough to temper the temptation?
•The NFL's worst defense has added veterans like Larry Foote and Julian Peterson. Grady Jackson, a tackle who's tough against the run, is another and could be just as big a key. But is there a suspension coming his way for a year-old violation of the league's drug policy?
•A tight end can both spark the running game and draw coverage away from wide receivers. How soon will first-round pick Brandon Pettigrew become the monster everyone expects?
•Can the heart of the receiving corps - Calvin Johnson, Bryant Johnson, and slot man Dennis Northcutt - shake injuries and be ready for the regular season?
•The Lions added two big-time offensive rookies a year ago. Running back Kevin Smith proved his worth almost immediately. Will right tackle Gosder Cherilius, with a push from newcomer Jon Jansen, an 11-year veteran, do the same as a sophomore?
•Can Jason Hunter, or maybe veteran Dewayne White, ably replace Jared DeVries, a Lion since 1999, who is out for the season at defensive end? New coach Jim Schwartz insisted the team must be bigger and stronger up front and then he lost one of his biggest and strongest right from the get-go.
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