Monday, August 2, 2010
Josh Cribbs might run 'Wild' for Browns
By Adam Schefter
BEREA, Ohio -- The Miami Dolphins made the Wildcat a weapon, but the Cleveland Browns could elevate its effectiveness.
Wide receiver Josh Cribbs can play quarterback or wide receiver. Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace can play quarterback or wide receiver. Then there will be times when Cribbs and Wallace line up at running back and fullback, without the defense knowing where the ball is being snapped.
The Browns know it's coming and soon enough opponents will, too.
"My role is just going to expand dramatically," Cribbs predicted. "A lot of things are going to happen where me and Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme -- we are all going to be rotating and hopping in and out of there."
Cleveland knows it has to do something to worry opposing defenses. In what is one of the most stunning statistics from last season, the Browns completed a total of 34 passes during their five wins -- an average of less than seven per game. Peyton Manning completed at least 34 passes in two separate games last season; the Browns did it in their five wins.
Nobody likes gimmicks more than Cleveland coach Eric Mangini and nobody has any more toys than the Browns. Don't be surprised if the Browns take the Wildcat to a new level.
Other Browns observations:
As much as he is a coach at heart, Browns president Mike Holmgren is doing his best to break the addiction. He has told Mangini that he will leave him alone and not get involved in any coaching. It has not always been easy, but Holmgren knows he must do it for the greater good of the organization.
Holmgren attends practice in a golf cart. He was sitting in it Monday, watching practice with former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, discussing the roster that Holmgren has helped compose. Holmgren is letting Mangini coach while he rules.
But it also hasn't stopped Holmgren from adopting defensive lineman Shaun Rogers as his pet project. Holmgren has taken a personal interest in working with Rogers, who made a habit of destroying Holmgren's teams.
Knowing that Cleveland needs another pass-rusher, it's possible that the Browns could use Ahtyba Rubin at nose tackle and Rogers at defensive end. But wherever he plays, Rogers will be under the influence of Holmgren.
Last month, Holmgren underwent surgery that left his right foot in a cast. At first, the cast was blue. But when Holmgren returned to the doctor's office last week, the doctor insisted that he make Holmgren's cast more befitting his job. He replaced the blue cast with an orange-colored one. Now Holmgren's cast blends right into the team's colors.
Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy continually kidded Jake Delhomme on Monday that he has been in the NFL for what, 25 years? No, but it does feel like it. Delhomme has been around so long that, back in 1998, when he played on the Amsterdam Admirals and went to NFL Europe training camp in Atlanta, his teammate was Kurt Warner. Amazing how some NFL teams can't ever find a quality quarterback and the Amsterdam Admirals found two.
When McCoy took his pre-draft visit to Cleveland in the spring, he arrived at the Browns' training facility at 6:30 a.m. The moment McCoy walked into the Browns' quarterbacks meeting room, he found Delhomme engrossed in game film, studying Cleveland's offense. Right there is an example of how Delhomme's presence will benefit McCoy for years to come. There are few quarterbacks in the league who are better role models than the classy and professional Delhomme.
Hard to imagine how first-round pick Joe Haden could crack the starting lineup in Cleveland this season. Eric Wright is a big-time cornerback, as the Browns thought he would be when they drafted him out of UNLV with a second-round pick in 2007. Sheldon Brown is a former Pro Bowl selection whom Browns general manager Tom Heckert knows well from his time in Philadelphia. White and Brown are the undisputed starters for now. But Haden will be the nickel cornerback and a player the Browns believe they will rely on for years to come.
There's no question Cleveland slowly has added some solid defensive players -- Brown, safety T.J. Ward, and linebackers Chris Gocong, Scott Fujita and Jason Trusnik. But this team does not have the dominant pass-rusher that Pittsburgh or Baltimore does. It might have to rely on defensive lineman Rogers.
Even though second-round pick Montario Hardesty is out for a couple weeks with a knee injury, he should have few problems picking up the Browns' offense. Browns coaches have been impressed with the running back's maturity and intelligence.
Cleveland might not have top-shelf wide receivers, but its tight ends are formidable. Ben Watson will be a weapon in the Browns' offense. The best-kept secret on Cleveland's roster just might be tight end Evan Moore, a 2009 undrafted free agent from Stanford whom most fans don't know. In a West Coast-type offense, Moore might catch 90 passes. In this offense, he won't catch that many passes, but he will be a player that the rest of the league will come to know.
Cleveland is making noticeable improvements. It's on the right track. But it's the Browns' misfortune to be stuck in a division in which the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are stacked and the Pittsburgh Steelers are the Steelers.
What's in numbers? A little perspective. Eric Mangini went 9-7 in his last year as Jets coach and was fired. Rex Ryan went 9-7 last year and was given a two-year contract extension.
And now, on to Latrobe, Pa., and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.