Anderson expects to be on short lease against Bengals

Published 10:02 am Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CLEVELAND — Maybe it was fitting that Derek Anderson spent his day off at an adoption center for cats and dogs. Cleveland’s starting quarterback is on a short leash.

With his team off to a disturbing 0-3 start, Browns coach Romeo Crennel is considering personnel changes and may bench Anderson for popular backup Brady Quinn.

Anderson, who made the Pro Bowl last season while leading Cleveland to 10 wins, has thrown just two touchdown passes and five interceptions in Cleveland’s losses to Dallas, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. He enters this week’s game at Cincinnati with a 43.5 quarterback rating — only Kansas City’s Tyler Thigpen’s 38.3 is worse.

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Anderson expects to start against the Bengals. However, if he struggles, he won’t finish.

He has run out of time.

‘‘I can play better. I know that,’’ Anderson said Tuesday outside the Cleveland Animal Protective League. ‘‘It’s been frustrating because I’ve put a lot into it and it’s not gone perfect. I’m not making excuses, but it hasn’t been what we’ve all expected it to be. You watch film and it’s a few things here and there: a missed throw, a dropped pass.

‘‘It’s never going to be perfect, but we thought we would have won at least one or two games so far. I understand it, and I’m just going to continue to keep working, knowing that we’re still in this and we just have to find a way to get going.’’

Wearing a protective sleeve wrap over a bruised right arm, Anderson didn’t appear to be nervous about losing his job. He was typically laid-back and approachable as he toured the facility and mingled with volunteers and people adopting animals. At one point, he dropped down on the floor to play with a pair of adorable brown Labradors before they were taken home by delighted new owners.

On Monday, Crennel informed the Browns that he was evaluating every position and that changes could be forthcoming. Anderson didn’t need to be told. Pressing to make big plays, he has made poor throws and bad decisions for an injury-riddled offense that has scored a league-low 26 points.

And if Anderson doesn’t improve quickly, Crennel will have no choice but to turn things over to Quinn, who will get more repetitions in practice this week with the first-team offense.

‘‘Regardless of the situation, I always put a lot of pressure on myself,’’ said Anderson, who went 14-of-37 for 125 yards with three interceptions on Sunday. ‘‘I take it as he (Quinn) is trying to take my job every week. Maybe it’s too much pressure I put on myself, but that’s just kind of the way I’ve always thought about it, even in college when I knew I was going to play. Anytime you get comfortable, you have to remind yourself that that guy’s chasing you.’’

In Baltimore, Anderson threw two picks in a 50-second span early in the third quarter. The second one was returned 32 yards for a touchdown by safety Ed Reed, who read Anderson perfectly, jumped wide receiver Syndric Steptoe’s route and turned the Ravens’ 10-7 deficit into a 21-10 lead.

Crennel said he never considered pulling Anderson to go with Quinn, who played in just one game during his rookie season but has shown poise and potential during the exhibition season.

Anderson knew what he was getting into when he decided to re-sign with the Browns as a restricted free agent in February. Cleveland gave up a first-round draft pick to select Quinn, the former Notre Dame star who despite attempting just eight passes in two seasons, is looked upon as the Browns’ savior by the club’s loyal-as-dogs fans.

‘‘First-round picks play in this league, regardless of the situation,’’ said Anderson, selected by Baltimore in the sixth round in 2005. ‘‘They just play. Signing and coming back here, I knew damn well that I had to play my butt off and play well. I wouldn’t have signed here if I didn’t think I could.’’

Anderson, who missed Cleveland’s final two preseason games with a concussion, can’t be blamed for all the Browns’ problems. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards has at least five drops and wideouts Donte’ Stallworth and Joe Jurevicius haven’t played because of injuries. Joshua Cribbs has been slowed by injuries, forcing the inexperienced Steptoe and Steve Sanders into action.

Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s play calling has been questionable. He abandoned the running game against the Ravens, leading running back Jamal Lewis to describe his 12 carries as ‘‘pathetic.’’

On top of that, the offensive line hasn’t had tackle Ryan Tucker and guard Eric Steinbach missed Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. Anderson was sacked five times in the loss.

Crennel said boosting Anderson’s confidence will be a group effort.

‘‘We have to protect better,’’ Crennel said. ‘‘We have to be better route runners. We have to catch better and he has to throw better.’’

Right now, Anderson is in the eye of an imperfect storm.

‘‘You get too much credit when you’re doing good and too much blame when you’re doing bad, with the coach and the quarterback, that’s the way it goes,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘I understand that. I have to play better.’’