Can Jake Delhomme really lead a weak Browns’ passing game?

GREEN BAY - AUGUST 14: Jake Delhomme  of the Cleveland Browns calls out a play during the NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field August 14, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)

Merry preseason, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the major issues the Browns could have with their passing game this season.

Usually teams have enough skill players to make an offense work, but their line holds them back.

The Browns have the opposite problem.

Joe Thomas is one of the top pass blocking left tackles in the game and will once again anchor a solid Cleveland offensive line. While he needs to improve his pass protection, young center Alex Mack is a budding star and Eric Steinbach completes a pretty dominating left side.

Unfortunately, not even a good offensive line will save the Browns from what should be one of the worst passing games in the NFL.

I’ve never been a fan of Jake Delhomme and while he may be fooling Cleveland fans with his “veteran presence” act right now, the guy was atrocious last year. He doesn’t handle pressure well, he forces passes into coverage and even when he does have time he still turns the ball over.

Granted, he was a consistent performer in 2008 before his disaster in the playoffs against the Cardinals that year. So if he can recapture some of that magic then maybe the Browns will be okay, but 1) I wouldn’t bet on it and 2) that means other players will have to step up around him.

Mohamed Massaquoi obviously has a ton of talent, which he displayed in big games against the Bengals and Lions last year. There’s a chance this could be his breakout season, but that would require Delhomme being able to get him the ball. While he certainly has a ton of potential, Massaquoi is being counted on as the Browns’ No. 1 receiver and he only amassed 624 yards last season.

On the other side is Brian Robiskie, whom I think has a nice future as a possession receiver. But he looked incredibly lost last year as a rookie (which I realize isn’t uncommon) and needs to make strides in his development if he wants to remain a starter.

Behind Massaquoi and Robiskie are Joshua Cribbs and Chansi Stuckey. Obviously Cribbs is explosive in the return game and he’s a highlight reel waiting to happen if he can get into open space. But he was arguably the least productive Brown as a receiver last year. Stuckey is fine as a No. 3 or No. 4, although don’t expect the light to turn on for him at this point in his career.

The good news is that the receiving corps does have potential (I’m intrigued by this Carlton Mitchell kid, too) and the running game should be strong. Adding Ben Watson at tight end should also help in the passing game, although it looks like Evan Moore is going looks at the position as well.

If Delhomme can be more consistent and cut down on all of the mistakes, the Browns’ passing game might be okay. And if Massaquoi can develop into a true No. 1 receiver over the course of the year, that should help Delhomme. And if Robiskie makes strides and if Cribbs carries over his play on special teams to receiver, the Browns will be in good shape.

You can see where I’m going with this. If, if, if, if…

I don’t have a ton of faith that all of this will come together – especially Delhomme transforming back into the quarterback he used to be. Thus, I think the Browns’ passing game (among other things) will hold them back in 2010.

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