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Five questions with PFW Browns correspondent Tony Grossi

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Posted Nov. 05, 2011 @ 9 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

PFW Browns correspondent Tony Grossi, the Browns' beat writer for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, recently answered five questions about the club, with Cleveland nearing the end of the first half of the season. Here are our questions and his answers:

PFW: To what do you attribute the Browns' first-quarter struggles this season?

Grossi: Self-inflicted wounds like penalties is the simple answer. Also, teams effectively have taken away kick returner Josh Cribbs by slamming the ball out of the endzone on the opening kickoff due to the new kickoff rule. But even when they have decent field position, the Browns have struggled to find an offensive rhythm at the start. There's been a lot of hue and cry to open the game in a no-huddle offense, which they inexplicably refuse to do.

PFW: Do you believe the Browns have simply had rotten injury luck at running back this season, or do you believe they needed to further bolster the position entering the year?

Grossi: It's been bad luck. They thought they had good depth there. Free-agent pickup Brandon Jackson was lost for the season with a turf-toe injury. Peyton Hillis has had a soap opera every week and missed two games with a hamstring injury. Now Montario Hardesty, who had made it back from ACL surgery, will be out about four weeks with a calf muscle tear. If Hillis leaves in free agency, they definitely will need to add another back next year.

PFW: What's been the biggest cause of the special-teams woes of recent weeks?

Grossi: The team youth movement displaced a lot of veteran special-teams core players. New guys in new spots always result in these setbacks initially. They need to establish some stability there.

PFW: Who gets your vote for the Browns' midseason MVP?

Grossi: In a tight race with CB Joe Haden and DT Ahtyba Rubin, I would give it to MLB D'Qwell Jackson.

PFW: By contrast, who or what has been the biggest disappointment in the first half of the season?

Grossi: The offensive ineptitude. Everyone thought the days of struggling to make a first down, much less a scoring drive, were gone after an offensive-minded head coach was hired to install the Mike Holmgren West Coast offense. Wrong.

Tony Grossi's work can be found in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer (Cleveland.com/browns). He can be followed on Twitter @TonyGrossi.

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