Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Interview With Sports Illustrated's Ben Reiter

Interview With Sports Illustrated's Ben Reiter

By Nick Hartmann

This past Wednesday Sports Illustrated released their annual NFL previews for all 32 teams. The Browns preview, authored by Ben Reiter provides a nice look into the Mangini run Browns and how the players are reacting to the drastic change in coaching style. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ben yesterday concerning his thoughts on the Browns training camp and outlook for the 2009 season.

Nick Hartmann: How would you grade the moves made by the Browns in the off-season?

Ben Reiter: They didn't do all that much comparatively to some of the other teams out there. For instance they failed to actively address the running situation by sticking with Jamal Lewis. They did manage to add James Davis in the 6th round of the draft and he is quite explosive and tends to play bigger than he is. However, although depth at running back is weak they are still in pretty good shape all things considered with Davis and Harrison who I spotlighted in the preview.

NH: The biggest off-season move was of course the new regime, what is your initial impression of Mangini and Kokinis?

BR: Things have definitely changed in Cleveland with the hiring of Eric Mangini. Everyone knows the rules about running laps for penalties, parking in certain places and having to memorize different sayings and mantras. They players say that they are buying in to the new style and that they are ready for a change. However, it is important to keep in mind that no players are going to tell me or anyone else that they are not buying in or that they do not like the new situation at this point in the season. When your team is 0-0 it is much easier for everyone to get along.

NH: How do you feel Mangini did in New York and what kind of player do you think he has trouble reaching?

BR: I think that Mangini got a bad rap in New York, I mean they were 8-3 at one point and all that anyone remembers is the collapse when Favre began to look 38. He has a very good coaching mind and is better than his reputation from New York. He is very secretive with the media as far as his team is concerned and in person although he doesn't reveal much he is a friendly and soft spoken guy.

As far as players he has trouble reaching I would say he can have trouble with veterans and higher profile or higher paid players. His rigorous, structured style does not always mesh with the those types of players. One of the things Mangini stressed to me was how he had learned the importance of explaining why he is doing things especially regarding his rules to the players.

NH: What is your opinion of the severity of Shaun Rogers' injury and what do you think about his relationship with Eric Mangini?

BR: Not surprisingly I have no extra information on the injury, however, Mangini talks very highly of him as a player and says he is the key to the defense up the middle. Rogers seems to fit the profile of a player that would clash with Mangini due to his success and contract. At the same time, however, there does not seem to be an issue right now despite past reports of Rogers dogging laps and reportedly telling Shaun Smith to go to Detroit because that is where he wants to be. This is one of those situations that we will have to wait and see what happens.

NH: What is your take on the QB race and do you think either one is a franchise QB?

BR: Mangini is trying to be secretive and follow his own modus operandi. However, it is hard for me to believe that making the Vikings prepare for both with provide any real advantage. The real reason could possibly be that he isn't enamored with either one yet. Brady Quinn has to get the first crack because of his sharpness in the preseason and the fact that he has yet to get a real chance. It is way too early to write him off at this point as he needs a full season to show what he can do.

NH: Does Jamal Lewis have anything left in the tank and how likely is it that he could be cut this pre-season?

BR: Jamal Lewis just recently turned 30, which is old for a running back I suppose. If there were more players behind him they would have an easier cut him but they do not have the talent and depth to let Lewis go.

NH: Who on the Browns will surprise people this season, both positively and negatively?

BR: Cribbs as a wide receiver has a chance to be that breakout guy. Watching him at training camp, he has a toughness and aggressiveness to breakout at that position which is key. He is quite motivated to prove he deserves more money. He really buys into the Mangini way and he talks about how once the season starts people will see the Browns out on the field playing like gladiator warriors. Alex Hall is another potential surprise guy as he is still raw but has a huge frame and what it takes to break out for the Browns as a pass rusher.

On the negative side it is tough to say as the Browns lack that high profile type of player to be honest. The only one that might fit would be Shaun Rogers if he has health problems and if his relationship with Mangini begins to break down.

NH: Will the Browns progress in 2009 and how many games do you think they will ultimately win?

BR: I see the Browns as pretty average across the board. There is no area they will get killed in and the only real place they will probably excel is the return game. As far as the win total far be it for me to contradict Peter King. However, I am more optimistic about the Browns in 2009 and see them going 5-11 with wins against Denver, Buffalo, Detroit, KC, and Oakland. The only issue would be if the team starts to lose and Mangini alienates his veterans which would cause the team to fall off.

Nick Hartmann
Managing Editor

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