PFW Browns correspondent Tony Grossi, the Browns' beat writer for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, recently took time out to answer five questions about the club entering Week Five.
1. What's your take on how first-round CB Joe Haden has fared to this point of his rookie season?
Grossi: He's the third cornerback right now. In nickel defenses, Eric Wright covers the slot receiver and Haden covers one of the wideouts. He's been good. Got beat in the first game when an all-out blitz came up short. But I haven't seen a major breakdown since.
Haden's tackling ability has contributed to a new toughness in the secondary. They weren't physical at all last year. He brings it. He's one of the leading tacklers on special teams. I expect him to be starting by the end of the year.
2. Why hasn't WR Mohamed Massaquoi been more involved in the offense recently?
Grossi: In preseason, Massaquoi looked like one of the most improved players on the team. Jake Delhomme got him the ball. Delhomme got hurt in the first game. Seneca Wallace came in and he isn't comfortable throwing to the left side of the field. That's where Massaquoi lines up.
It's not like Massaquoi drops everything thrown his way. I haven't seen a drop. They just don't look for him enough. The pass routes are archaic — everything's a go route. They don't throw enough slants or quick outs to get the ball in his hands.
3. What is Shaun Rogers' role in the defense going forward?
Grossi: It's uncertain. He's out of shape and doesn't practice most of the week. The torch at nose tackle has been passed to Ahtyba Rubin. If Rogers were in shape, we might see him line up at end in the base defense. Otherwise, he's strictly a penetrating interior lineman on passing downs.
4. How do you see the workload between the Browns' backs being shared going forward? Will Peyton Hillis keep getting this much work?
Grossi: Hillis is the man — unless he suffers a rash of fumbles, which is doubtful. Hillis is the new identity of the offense — a physical, downhill runner who is relentless. He energizes the team, knocking down tacklers or bouncing off them. Jerome Harrison appears to be in the doghouse and is back to being a complementary back.
5. What has been the biggest key to the offensive line's success this season?
Grossi: They've solidified the right side with the addition of Tony Pashos at right tackle. Floyd Womack has settled in at right guard and is doing very well. Womack has held off rookie Shawn Lauvao, who looked like an instant starter until an ankle injury just before the season opener. The left side of Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach and center Alex Mack is outstanding. This is the strength of the offense.
Tony Grossi's work can be found in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer (Cleveland.com/browns). He can be followed on Twitter @TonyGrossi.