BEREA — Don’t count out Derek Anderson.
While national pundits are focused on incumbent Charlie Frye and first-round draft pick Brady Quinn in the battle to be the Browns’ starting quarterback for the opener Sept. 9 vs. Pittsburgh, Anderson looked the best during the organized team activities and minicamp practices open to the media. With training camp a little more than five weeks away, Anderson is a legitimate candidate to win the starting job.
He likes his chances.
“They’re good. That’s my mind-set,” he said Thursday as minicamp closed and the team broke until training camp July 27. “The coaches are going to give us an equal opportunity. Whoever performs well and moves the team the best is obviously going to be the guy.”
While the offense struggled as it installed offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s new system, Anderson stood out among the quarterbacks. He hit Braylon Edwards on a deep fly pattern down the sideline and threw fewer interceptions than Frye and Quinn.
“They’re all throwing pretty good, but probably D.A. has the best arm,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “He has the strongest arm and there are no secrets about that. But along with that you have to be able to run the offense, and so there is more to it than just having a strong arm.”
While Anderson will always look good throwing the ball in drills, he must prove he can consistently make the right decisions in games. He threw eight interceptions in four games last year, including three starts. And during a minicamp drill using a play clock, Anderson twice failed to get the snap off in time.
“I gotta be quicker with the check and get the play off,” Anderson said.
During the OTAs and minicamp, the repetitions were split almost evenly among Frye, Anderson, Quinn and Ken Dorsey. Crennel continues to say that Frye has a “leg up,” Anderson is in the mix and that he doesn’t know when he’ll pick a starter.
“We just come in every day and work,” Anderson said. “The coaches are not really saying anything.”
Anderson was an afterthought at this time last year. He hadn’t taken an NFL snap, and people were questioning general manager Phil Savage’s decision not to add a veteran to back up Frye.
But when Frye hurt his wrist against Kansas City, Anderson led an overtime win, which was sparked by a 33-yard scramble. He lost starts to Pittsburgh and Baltimore before separating his shoulder in a loss to Tampa Bay.
“Obviously I’ve got a lot more reps and I’ve gotten to play a lot more,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of progress, but I’ve got a lot left to learn. I’m working at it.”
Anderson completed 56 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and a 63.1 rating. While the numbers were subpar, he got rid of the ball quickly, an area in which Frye struggled.
“Throwing on time, getting the ball out on time, that’s something I think helps the whole offensive system,” Anderson said. “I think I do a pretty good job of that most of the time.”
Anderson said his ability to make timing throws and deep throws makes him a good fit for Chudzinski’s system. He could also benefit from a likely holdout by Quinn that would reduce the competition to Anderson and Frye.
If Anderson wins the job, it would be quite a comeback from being an afterthought when the Browns traded back into the first round to draft Quinn No. 22.
“I’m always staying positive,” Anderson said. “I honestly didn’t get down. I kept telling myself and talking to my wife and, ‘Hey, I’m just going to go do it and whatever happens happens.’ I just have to know when it’s all over that I gave it all I had.”
That could be good enough.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.