Quinn, Edwards seek chemistry

Published 4:33 am Thursday, September 17, 2009

BEREA — They’ve been teammates and friends for three seasons. They’ve spent countless hours together on the practice field, lifting in the weight room, eating in the cafeteria, attending meetings and hanging out in the locker room.

Brady Quinn and Braylon Edwards should be tight.

On Sunday, they looked like complete strangers.

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Cleveland’s starting quarterback and top wide receiver were out of sync throughout the Browns’ 34-20 season-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Quinn, making his fourth NFL start, completed just one out of six passes thrown toward Edwards, whose only reception came on a deflected ball that was nearly intercepted.

Otherwise, they were disconnected all day. There were overthrows, underthrows, broken routes and miscommunication.

Not only did it seem they weren’t on the same page, they didn’t appear to be following the same playbook.

Two years ago, Edwards caught 16 TD passes from former starter Derek Anderson, now Quinn’s backup. Edwards and Anderson had chemistry and the pair made the Pro Bowl because of it. On Wednesday, Edwards was asked if he needs to develop the same rapport with Quinn.

‘‘Is Anderson our starting quarterback?’’ Edward snapped.

No, he was told.

‘‘In that case, it needs to be done again,’’ he said.

The league has been built on strong quarterback-to-wide receiver connections. Johnny Unitas had Raymond Berry. Joe Montana had Jerry Rice. Terry Bradshaw had Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, to name a few.

Nowadays, Tom Brady has Randy Moss. Ben Roethlisberger has Santonio Holmes and Carson Palmer has Chad Ochocinco.

Until Quinn and Edwards get it together, the Browns will lack big-play potential.

Quinn understands that he and Edwards need to be more in tune.

‘‘That (chemistry) is always something we need to work on,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s seldom that a quarterback will actually ever say, ’Hey, let’s not work on our chemistry, or we work on our chemistry too much.’ Joe Montana and Jerry Rice might be the only two that come to mind that those guys had it down pretty well.’’

One of Quinn’s biggest strengths — and perhaps the main reason coach Eric Mangini chose him over Anderson — is his ability to manage a game by throwing short and not making mistakes. Quinn described offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system as methodical, a take-what-the-defense-gives-you attack.

‘‘We’re not going to try to force something if we don’t have to,’’ Quinn said. ‘‘We’re going to play smart football.’’

But can Edwards, a big-play wide receiver, thrive in a conservative offense?

‘‘If I need to,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘We’ve had plays and we’ve seen things. Talking to our offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, he showed me where I fit and he showed me what I need to do to make this offense work, so I don’t have a problem doing that.’’

It would be wise for the Browns to figure out how to get the ball in Edwards’ hands as much as possible. With perhaps the exception of running back Jamal Lewis, Edwards is the only player on Cleveland’s offense who can turn a short gain into a long touchdown.

Quinn, though, wants to develop confidence with all the Browns receivers, not just Edwards.

‘‘One of the things you try to do as an offense is have a bunch of guys to go to,’’ he said. ‘‘Yeah, Braylon’s a go-to wide receiver, but you don’t want to always tip your hand that way, so in a key situation, everyone’s going, ’Hey, let’s put eight guys on Braylon and not worry about the other guys.

‘‘We’ve got plenty of talented guys on our team and we’re going to try to make all those guys go-to guys no matter what the situation may be.’’

Quinn can say what he wants about Cleveland’s other receivers, but none of them is close in talent to Edwards, who is trying to bounce back from a drop-plagued 2008 season.

If he catches the ball, and sometimes that’s a big IF, the 6-foot-3 Edwards is a matchup nightmare for defenses. There are few wide receivers in the league who possess his combination of speed, strength and jumping ability. He has it all, but now he needs to align with Quinn.

And there’s only one way to do that.

‘‘It’s just extra work,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘It’s extra work before and after practice, being on the same page and just tell him at all times what I’m thinking and him telling me all the time what he’s thinking. Having an open and honest relationship is probably the best way.’’