On the Road: Day 15 … with the Browns

(Editor's note: In addition to his team reports, Jason Cole will share some of the off-field highlights of his preseason travel.)

Sorry to have deserted you Friday, but the Hall of Fame stuff I wrote kept me away. Anyway, Friday was spent taking in a practice of the Cleveland Browns, who also held their Brown-and-White scrimmage on Saturday. I'll give you a little update on the Browns in a second, but I'll first emphasize the Hall of Fame ceremony and surrounding events. For football purists, the Hall of Fame, located in Canton, Ohio, is awesome. The room with all the busts of the honorees is the coolest thing and emotionally stirring. Before I visited I didn't get it because there's no way to properly express it. It's an emotional connection to the people who made the game great that comes through. While the rest of the Hall could use a little updating, the place flirts with perfection. Perched in the shadow of Fawcett Stadium, this is all about football. Beyond that, the Hall is set in the middle of a middle-class neighborhood, giving it a homey, common-man feel that is perfect for football. This is not a country-club sport. Having it in some elitist area like a big city or an upscale neighborhood would be wrong.

How 'bout some football
The Browns didn't do much Friday in anticipation of their scrimmage Saturday. However, it's clear to anyone who has seen the Browns in recent years that there are some quiet improvements going on. The secondary is the deepest version of that unit the Browns have had in at least four or five years. Newcomer Joe Haden(notes) is still in the learning phase, but with Eric Wright(notes), Sheldon Brown(notes) and Brandon McDonald(notes), the Browns have quality depth. If Haden becomes the star the Browns hope, this unit could be great, particularly because coach Eric Mangini is a tremendous secondary coach. … The Browns' receiving corps needs to take some big steps. The talent is there with the likes of Mohamed Massaquoi(notes) and Brian Robiskie(notes). Both appear to be stronger and more willing to use their bodies when trying to make a catch, although neither seems to have the athletic gifts to be dominant receivers. The Browns desperately need both of them to progress after the decision to get rid of Kellen Winslow(notes) Jr. and Braylon Edwards(notes) last season. On a team bereft of stars, the Browns need someone to step forward. … NT Shaun Rogers(notes) isn't working yet, which is a huge concern. Without him, the front seven is going to be ordinary. Not that Rogers is really that good on a consistent basis, but he is a focal point for offenses. … The Browns' offensive line is terrific. Anchored by LT Joe Thomas(notes), the Browns are good enough up front that they could play ball-control football. That would keep games close in the interim. … ILB D'Qwell Jackson(notes) was limited to six games last season because of injury. Right now, he looks as quick and physical as ever, considering that the Browns aren't hitting that much just yet.

Song of the morning
I'll go with a trio of songs today. Start with "Battle Flag" by the Lo Fidelity Allstars and Pigeonhed. I have to give out a lyrical warning on this one, but it really rocks. If you're struggling to get through a morning workout, this will solve the problem. After getting jacked up with that, I chased it with a cover of Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London." The surprise is it's Adam Sandler's version. I still have a hard time picturing Sandler doing this song, but he pulls it off. It's almost better than the original (sidenote: the appearance Zevon did on "The Larry Sanders Show" is priceless self-deprecation, a must-see). You can get it off the Zevon tribute album titled "Enjoy Every Sandwich." Finally, following the Zevon path, it's "Excitable Boy" by the master himself, R.I.P. Warren, you were one of a kind.

Underrated Cleveland eats
When it comes to variety and quality, Cleveland is amazing compared to its reputation. Iron chef Michael Symon has a couple of fun places, including the fabulous Lola. Beyond Symon's influence, there's Johnny's Grill on the upscale end and then lots of neighborhood places. Mike's Bar and Grill in Berea got it done on Friday. It had a solid collection of beers on tap and some nice bottled stuff, too. Throw in a really good burger (the "Santa Fe" featured chorizo, spicy pepper and jack cheese) and a wide selection of good wings and you have a great after-work meal with friends.