Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time for a change, America: Brady Quinn's a starter

It’s time for change, America.

Time for a new direction. A different perspective. A young, charismatic leader with a new way of doing things.-

It’s time for the Brady Quinn Era.

Quinn, the former Notre Dame heartthrob and Heisman Trophy finalist, will start his first NFL game today when the Cleveland Browns host the Denver Broncos. Up until now, Quinn’s biggest claim to fame as a pro has been starring in those commercials for EAS Myoplex (whatever that is) and perfecting the art of clipboard-holding.

But with the Browns, a trendy preseason playoff pick, sinking fast in the AFC North, Cleveland decided to pull the plug on Derek Anderson and turn the reins over to Quinn.

Anderson’s certainly been a disappointment this year after a breakout 2007 (3,787 yards, 29 TDs) — he threw nine TDs and seven INTs before getting demoted. The problem is, Anderson wasn’t the only reason for the Browns’ struggles. He hasn’t been helped by Braylon Edwards’ butterfingers (14 drops) or the absence and/or ineffectiveness of Kellen Winslow, Donte’ Stallworth and Joe Jurevicius.

So will Quinn fare any better? Cleveland certainly hopes so. It’s counting on him to inject new life into an offense that ranks in the bottom third of the league in most passing categories. There isn’t much tape out there on Quinn — he’s attempted eight regular season passes in his career — and the team is counting on that unfamiliarity to sting the Broncos’ 27th-ranked pass defense Thursday.

It’s easy to forget the arm strength and leadership qualities Quinn displayed with the Fighting Irish, qualities that made him a first-round pick in 2007 and the second quarterback selected after JaMarcus Russell. Those skills will serve him well as a pro, and though he’ll have the expected struggles of a young QB, he’s definitely worth a waiver claim this week. If you’ve been counting on second-tier QBs like Matt Schaub or Kyle Orton or Dan Orlovsky — all of whom will miss extensive time with injuries — or had Anderson as your starter, Quinn is a suitable replacement with some upside.

Some other youngsters whose time has come:

Tim Hightower has evolved from goal-line vulture to full-fledged feature back for the Arizona Cardinals. The rookie has supplanted Edgerrin James, rushing for 109 yards and a TD on 22 carries last week against the St. Louis Rams in his first NFL start. Now he has a promising primetime date against the San Francisco 49ers this Monday night. Start him without fear — and get ready to kiss Edge goodbye.

Jamaal Charles got his chance to shine this week when Kolby Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury and Larry Johnson was benched (again) for disciplinary reasons. All the Kansas City Chiefs rookie did was gash the tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense for 106 yards on 18 carries Sunday. Charles is a starter-by-default for the time being with LJ facing more suspension time, and he’s got a great matchup this week against the San Diego Chargers’ league-worst run defense.

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