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Tony Grossi's Take: Always take the points on the road

Oct 19, 2014 -- 7:19pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

JACKSONVILLE, FL

Tony Grossi’s Take on Browns’ 24-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Offense: Skeptics wondered what was more responsible for Brian Hoyer’s success this year – the system’s unstoppable running game or Hoyer himself? This clunker fed the belief that it has been the running game. The Jaguars kept the run game to a 2.3-yard average. Ben Tate had an 18-yard run, and then 18 yards on his 15 other carries. Those stops created third-and-long situations for Hoyer, and he produced his worst game – 25 incompletions in 41 attempts. The offensive line, featuring John Greco at center for the injured Alex Mack and Paul McQuistan at right guard, was handled by Jacksonville’s front eight. When Hoyer’s passes weren’t batted down (four times), he was terribly off the mark, missing an open Jordan Cameron in the end zone early in the game, and turned the ball over twice on a fumble and interception. Another interception was dropped, as were more passes by his receivers than in any other game. Bottom line: Won’t be on Kyle Shanahan’s resume tape.

Defense: Some good, some bad. Three interceptions of Blake Bortles – two by Tashaun Gipson, one by Buster Skrine -- should have been enough to carry the day, but they weren’t. The short-handed defensive front got stampeded by the Jaguars running game. Denard Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback, gashed them for 127 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts. Bortles had 37 yards on five designed zone-read option keepers. Cecil Shorts didn’t hurt anyone (3 catches for 12 yards on 9 targets), but rookie receiver Allen Robinson shook off Skrine at the 22-yard line to complete a 31-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. Bottom line: Three picks usually win a game.

Special teams: It was a draw except for one error – Jordan Poyer’s fumble of a Jacksonville punt while trying to field it at the 5-yard line. That fourth-quarter foible led to a touchdown to make it a two-score game with about 6 minutes to go. Poyer said he decided to try to field the ball because he felt he could get the offense another 15 yards. Possession-specialist Jim Leonhard normally would be in that spot, but the coaches didn’t feel that Poyer put them at risk of a turnover. Also on that play, Tank Carder jumped offsides. Jabaal Sheard looked like he was all over a block of a Josh Scobee 30-yard field goal, but somehow the ball eluded his outstretched mitts. Bottom line: One killer play in each of the three losses.

Coaching: Mike Pettine tried to be aggressive in eschewing a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 24 late in the first half. It was the wrong thing to do because a field goal there would have given the Browns a 9-0 lead at halftime. On a bad day for an offense and playing against a rookie quarterback, sometimes field goals do win games. It blew up in Pettine’s face as the Jaguars sped downfield for a 7-6 lead. Another questionable call was the hokey attempt in the fourth quarter to draw the Jaguars into a penalty on an apparent punt. The coaches rushed the offense back onto the field to try to draw the Jaguars into an illegal substitution situation, or offsides, or something. The Browns weren’t supposed to snap the ball, but it was snapped and Hoyer was forced to pitch the ball to a surprised Tate, who was crushed for a 2-yard loss near mid-field. Wasted opportunity there, though the Jaguars didn’t capitalize on a bonehead Browns play. Bottom line: Two coaching points for the coaches.

 

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns lay egg in Jacksonville, lose, 24-6, to winless Jaguars

Oct 19, 2014 -- 4:17pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Updated at 6:43 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE, FL

It takes a total team effort to lose so badly to a previously winless team, and that’s what happened to the Browns on Sunday.

The offense was in preseason form, as Brian Hoyer experienced his worst game in a Cleveland uniform. The defense intercepted Blake Bortles three times, but allowed former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to rush for a career-high 127 yards and a touchdown. And the special teams contributed a key fumble deep in their own end on a Jacksonville punt.

But the turning point of this abysmal 24-6 stinker came near the end of the first half. Mike Pettine suffered his first brain-lock as Browns coach.

The Browns were ahead, 6-0, and Tashaun Gipson’s second interception gave them the ball at Jacksonville’s 33-yard line. At the two-minute warning, it was third-and-1 at the 24. A handoff to Terrance West, newly released from the coaches’ doghouse, resulted in no gain as he stuttered at the wall in front of him.

A field goal would have given the Browns a two-score lead against a Jaguars team that didn’t look like it could score once, let alone twice.

But Pettine kept his offense on the field, and Hoyer’s fourth-down pass to the right sideline for tight end Jordan Cameron -- like a shocking majority of his passes on this day – fell off the mark.

Uplifted, Bortles and his offense sped 76 yards on only three pass plays for the touchdown.

7-6, Jaguars at halftime.

Ballgame.

Pettine took accountability for the call when pressed on it.

“It ended up playing out as bad as it could,” the coach said.

“We felt that we had less than a yard and two plays to get it. They defended us well. We’ve got to understand, with that short of distance, we’ve got to be able to get it.

“We’d been playing well defensively to that point. I just felt for the way we had moved the ball at times, to just come away with just another field goal … you get into that game where you’re just kicking field goals. Given the short distance, we felt we could get it and if we didn’t get it, that they were backed up enough.

“And it couldn’t have gone worse for us.”

No doubt the game was still winnable. But two things became clear early in the second half. The Jaguars weren’t going to loosen their vise grip on the Browns’ running game. Running back Ben Tate, the former Houston Texan, said Jacksonville always has defended the wide-zone run scheme well. And Hoyer wasn’t going to make any plays to mount another comeback.

A lost fumble on a sack occurred on Hoyer’s first possession of the third quarter, resulting in a 10-6 Jacksonville lead after a field goal.

And there were throws all over the place hitting the hard Bermuda grass field. Four of them were deflected at the line of scrimmage by a Jacksonville defensive front smelling blood in the first full game the Browns played without center Alex Mack in over five years.

Finally in the fourth quarter, with the score still at 10-6, somebody on the Browns’ offense made a play. Andrew Hawkins took a short pass on second-and-10 from the Browns’ 6 and accelerated through the middle of the field before being brought down at the Jaguars’ 29 after a 65-yard catch-and-run.

But the possession imploded on a 4-yard loss by Isaiah Crowell, an 8-yard sack of Hoyer and a fruitless throw by Hoyer while backpedaling from pressure.

That three-play sequence with 6:01 to play exterminated hopes of another Hoyer comeback.

“When you hit Hawk on a three-step drop on a 6-yard pass and he gains, what, 65 yards, and when they shut you done again, it’s demoralizing,” Hoyer said.

“Yeah,” agreed Hawkins. “In games like that, momentum can swing both ways and when you’re on the wrong side of momentum, things go bad quickly. As you can see out there.”

The Jaguars tacked on two touchdowns in the span of 1 minute, 23 seconds to make it a rout.

The first was set up when punt returner Jordan Poyer had the ball clank off his helmet visor while trying to field a Jacksonville punt inside the Browns’ 5.

“I thought when the ball was coming down I was on the 5,” Poyer said. “I felt I could get the offense at least another 15 yards. It was one of those plays I wish I had back. I felt I let my team down, the coaches down.”

Denard Robinson then scooted eight yards around the left edge for the touchdown on the very next play. Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback, spanked the Browns’ defense for a career-high 127 yards on 22 attempts.

Hoyer took over after the kickoff, now down, 17-6. On second down, he was hit by tackle Abry Jones as he threw, and the ball was intercepted by linebacker Telvin Smith, who returned it 15 yards to the 7.

Two plays later, Storm Johnson scored on a 3-yard run to wrap up Jacksonville’s first win in seven games.

The Browns played into the cynical predictions of not being ready yet for consistent winning. They fell to 3-3 on their worst performance of the Pettine era.

“We just didn’t play well. We got our butts kicked. We just couldn’t get anything going,” said Hoyer, who could just have well been speaking of his individual play.

Hoyer, who entered the game ranked ninth in the NFL among starting quarterbacks with a 99.5 passer rating, finished with ugly numbers – 16 of 41 passing for 215 yards, three sacks, one interception, one lost fumble, and a rating of 46.3. Thud!

Take away Hawkins’ 65-yard catch-and-run and Hoyer had 150 yards passing.

It was a natural to point to the absence of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who missed the first start of his career after having season-ending surgery on a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments. It was obvious that the John Greco-Paul McQuistan center-right guard tandem had their hands full with Jacksonville’s jacked-up defensive front, led by tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, who was credited with two quarterback hits and one pass knockdown.

“It’s tough (recovering from the lineup changes),” Hoyer said. “That is probably the best front seven that we’ve played. But that’s no excuse. We’re more than capable of overcoming that. We knew coming in this could be tough sledding for us.”

“They schemed us pretty well, but I knew that. They always play our scheme really well,” said Tate, who led the Browns with 36 yards on 16 rushing attempts.

Crowell had 7 rushes for 18 yards and West five for 8 yards. As a team, the Browns, ranked third in the NFL in rushing, had 30 attempts for 69 yards – a 2.3-yard average.

“Offensively, we played our worst game,” Hoyer said. “Our defense played great. They could only do so much.

“We have to take this and learn everything from it. When you get beat like this, it’s a copycat league. Teams are going to do exactly what Jacksonville did. They handed it to us.”

Pettine warned everyone that the Jaguars were capable of doing exactly that. It turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Tony Grossi's Four Downs: Joe Haden seeks revenge against Cecil Shorts, Browns meet Baby Ben, and more

Oct 18, 2014 -- 6:15pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/USAToday

Four Downs on Browns v. Jacksonville Jaguars

First down: Joe Haden’s revenge?

On Thursday, Haden got a little irritated with repeated questions about last year’s meeting with the Jaguars in Cleveland. Haden was beat by Cecil Shorts for a 20-yard TD to climax an 80-yard winning drive by quarterback Chad Henne. Haden had an interception in the game and had limited Shorts to 44 yards receiving prior to the TD – but the play became a metaphor for Haden’s occasional breakdowns with games on the line. The 32-28 loss obscured a 260-yard receiving game by Josh Gordon and all but sealed the firings of the former coaching staff. Shorts, a Cleveland native, returned to the Jacksonville lineup last week after a hamstring injury and was targeted 16 times, and had a career-high 10 receptions. During the week, Mike Pettine hailed Shorts as “an elite receiver.”

Second down: Browns meet Baby Ben.

Having finally slain Ben Roethlisberger, their franchise nemesis, a week ago, the Browns’ defense now gets its first look at rookie Blake Bortles, a.k.a. Baby Ben, because of his resemblance to the big, agile Pittsburgh quarterback. At the NFL Combine in February, Bortles presented himself as the anti-Manziel – a player who could be trusted to represent himself and his franchise in a positive light. Bortles wound up being taken No. 3 overall – 19 notches higher than Johnny Manziel. While Manziel has appeared on the field for only three plays, Bortles will be making his fourth consecutive start. He is 0-3.

Third down: Beware the block.

Blocked kicks in the NFL are up by almost 100 percent over a year ago. The Browns already have suffered one blocked field goal, which was the difference in a two-point loss to Baltimore. In the offseason, the Jaguars signed former Seattle defensive end Red Bryant to rejoin coach Gus Bradley, who was the Seahawks defensive coordinator prior to 2013. With the Seahawks, Bryant blocked two Browns field goals in a 6-3 Seattle loss to the Browns in 2011. Bryant also had two other blocks that season on a field goal and extra point.

Fourth down: Setting up Jordan Cameron.

The one thing the Jaguars do relatively well is stop the run. Despite being on the field an average of 7 minutes longer per game than their opponents, the Jaguars rank 19th in run defense, yielding 117 rushing yards a game and 4.0 per rush. Those figures are well below the Browns’ rushing averages of 146.4 and 4.4. Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said the Jaguars field eight defenders “in the box” about 95 percent of the time. Which means they use only one safety in coverage. Which means the Browns may make a concerted effort to get the ball to tight end Jordan Cameron, who had his first 100-yard receiving game last week against Pittsburgh on only three catches.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns Game 6 Preview: Browns face test of character as road favorites in hot and humid Jacksonville

Oct 18, 2014 -- 6:05pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

What: Browns (3-2) v. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6), 1 p.m.

TV: CBS, WOIO Channel 19 with Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein and Steve Tasker.

The set-up: This is the first of three games in a row for the Browns against teams with a combined record of 1-16. If they take care of business, they could reach the halfway point of the season and their prime-time game in Cincinnati on Nov. 6 with a 6-2 record. Of the three games, this may be the most difficult because it is: 1. On the road, 2. Expected to be played in hot and humid conditions, and 3. Against a young team that recently has played Pittsburgh and Tennessee tough and down to the wire.

Series history: Jaguars lead, 10-5.

Historical footnote: The Browns, only four years old in the expansion era, stayed alive in the their first playoff chase with a storybook 21-20 win in Jacksonville on a 50-yard Tim Couch Hail Mary pass to Quincy Morgan as time ran out. The victory was only assured, however, after Phil Dawson converted the PAT, which was no cinch on a day that Dawson missed one field goal, had another blocked and also shanked a kickoff out of bounds. It was Couch’s second win on a last-play Hail Mary in his career, which, to this day, is an NFL record. Morgan’s catch survived a controversial replay review. The next morning, the local newspaper captured an image of a tumbling Morgan trapping the ball on the ground. That was sweet revenge for Morgan and the Browns. A year earlier, another controversial Morgan catch was overturned in a game against the Jaguars in Cleveland, which spawned “Bottlegate.” “What goes around comes around,” remarked Browns safety Earl Little.

Jaguars update: After they defeated the Browns in Cleveland last Dec. 1, and then followed with a Thursday night win for their third in a row, many felt the Jaguars and coach Gus Bradley were turning the corner on their rebuilding job. But they followed a 4-12 season with an 0-6 start. Though their last two games have been competitive losses to Pittsburgh and Tennessee, the Jags are too young on offense – six rookies often are on the field – and mistake-prone to keep their defense from tiring out from overuse. This will be rookie quarterback Blake Bortles’ fourth consecutive start. He has thrown seven interceptions – two returned for touchdowns – in 3 ½ games.

Browns update: After filling in capably for injured center Alex Mack in the Pittsburgh game, John Greco gets his first career start at the position. Greco’s vacated spot at right guard will be filled by veteran swingman Paul McQuistan. All eyes will be on the Browns’ unstoppable wide-zone running scheme to see if it can be slowed by the Jaguars and the heat. After a one-week demotion due to bad practices, rookie running back Terrance West is expected to be activated as a backup. The defensive front also receives a boost by the return of nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin, but it loses nickel back K’Waun Williams (concussion). That means rookie Justin Gilbert will have another opportunity to begin overcoming a rough introduction to the NFL.

Injury report: Browns – C Alex Mack (leg) is on injured reserve; WR Rodney Smith (hamstring), DE Phil Taylor (knee), DE Billy Winn (quad) and CB K’Waun Williams (concussion) are out; FS Tashaun Gipson (thigh) and NT Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) are questionable. Jaguars – RB Toby Gerhart (foot) is out.

Our take: Coach Mike Pettine views this game as a solid test of his team’s character. All the ingredients are there for a rough day for the Browns – on the road against a winless team, in steamy weather conditions that could strain their endurance, but overall a game which they are favored to win.

Prediction: Browns sweat it out, 23-13.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

A healthy Brian Hoyer is the difference between this year's 3-2 Browns and last year's 3-2 team

Oct 17, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

Here we go again: The Browns are 3-2 and poised to make their move after a big home win. A new coaching staff has everyone buying into the new program. The offense is scoring. Optimism is sky high.  

But enough about last year.

That’s right. A year ago, the Browns were in the same position as today. Fans, media and maybe some players were peeking ahead to upcoming games and thinking, “There’s no reason this team can’t be in it to the end.”

The front office was extolling the jobs being done by the first-year coaching staff.

“We were sitting at the same point last year and a lot of people were feeling good about it, and we were too,” said offensive lineman John Greco.

What happened from that point? One win, 10 losses.

The explanation doesn’t take much analysis. The coaches didn’t all of a sudden become dummies. The wheels came off because of one reason.

Brian Hoyer tore his right ACL, and the Browns’ quarterback merry-go-round started turning again, complete with calliope music and flashing carnival lights.

An old vibe returns: In just two complete games last season, Hoyer injected the locker room with a blast of confidence that I had not seen in the previous 14 seasons of the expansion era. Losing him in Game 5 – in the game witnessed by future Browns coach Mike Pettine – changed everything.

“Brian came in last year and provided a spark,” Greco said. “We had some success and people were feeling good about it. Then, obviously, when he hurt his knee, there was … not a lull, but when you have momentum like that and something tragic happens like that, it kind of stopped us and we got out of our rhythm, our chemistry.”

There are only 29 players on the Browns’ active roster right now who were in this same position a year ago. They know the prospects going forward with a healthy Hoyer playing even better than before the injury.

“I definitely think there’s a different energy we’ve got, and it’s something personnel–wise, obviously, with our quarterback,” linebacker Paul Kruger said.

“Our defense, we believe in Hoyer,” said cornerback Joe Haden. “He’s been doing everything -- a real good job of not turning the ball over, controlling the offense, getting first downs.

“The sideline’s different. We’re on the sideline and when third downs come up, you hear that call ‘Punt team (get ready),’ but me and Donte (Whitner) are like, ‘We’re gonna get it.’ Just knowing he’s moving the ball and the offense is making progress, it just makes us feel a whole lot comfortable.”

Managing success: On good teams, the starting quarterback is the conscience of the locker room -- the inner voice, the guiding light.

The good ones stand in front of the cameras and microphones two or three times a week and deliver the right messages to their teammates through their public comments.

They spout the clichés about teamwork and keep their teammates focused on the game at hand and away from getting too full of themselves after big wins. Basically, they reinforce the talking points of the head coach. They carry themselves in a manner – totally focused and driven to keep the team winning -- that sets the example for their teammates.

After Hoyer went down last year, this essential role was left first with Brandon Weeden and then with Jason Campbell. Weeden couldn’t command respect because of his performance on the field. Campbell earned it early, and then the responsibility ate him up.

The beauty of Hoyer is that he has the experience of a seasoned veteran, one who soaked up the wisdom and example of Tom Brady for three years, and yet he is still growing as a player on the field and not nearly at his peak after just eight career starts, seven with the Browns.

So the Browns, having weathered the tough opening portion of their schedule, now embark on a stretch to establish their legitimacy as a playoff contender. And they have a strong veteran presence at the crucial position, which is a comfort to all.

“I’d agree with that,” Pettine said, “because that’s the natural position of leadership. That’s the guy when you’re on offense, you’ve got 10 guys looking at one for the play call. You want that guy because I think it comes with the position.”

“Absolutely,” Kruger said. “I mean, it’s pretty clear. Success breeds confidence, and it allows you to play loose and relaxed. It makes a difference no matter what team you’re on.”

This 3-2 Browns team is better than last year’s 3-2 team in other ways. The running game is a thousand percent better. The offensive line in the Kyle Shanahan zone-blocking scheme is a certifiable force. The coaching is sound all over. The head coach has that rare communicative gene able to cut through all the divergent cultures in a locker room.

But the single reason why this 3-2 Browns team can achieve so much more than last year’s 3-2 team has to do with the quarterback. If Hoyer can stay on the field, the Browns can be the surprise team of the NFL.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Barkevious Mingo, still ailing, showing a glimmer of hope in pass rush game

Oct 16, 2014 -- 4:47pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Extra Points …

Barking up: Part of the reason for Barkevious Mingo’s lack of sacks is a change in assignments to covering downfield rather than rushing the quarterback.

And that change in roles is partially due to the fact Mingo has been playing with a harness to protect an injured shoulder.

But Mingo did help cause both of the sacks of Ben Roethlisberger on consecutive plays in the third quarter of the Browns’ 31-10 win over the Steelers. Karlos Dansby and Desmond Bryant were credited with the sacks, but just being in the picture could represent a turning-point in what has been a quiet second season for Mingo.

“I hope so,” said defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil. “Hopefully, it did give him some confidence and we’ll see more of that and we’ll get him to getting the quarterback on the ground in some of the games to come.”

Mingo, who had a sack on his very first NFL play as a rookie and five overall last year, has zero sacks and 12 tackles in four games. He missed Game 2 with the shoulder injury.

“To his credit, he’s fighting … he has to wear a harness,” coach Mike Pettine said. “He’ll probably have to wear it all year. His mobility is limited with that arm.”

O’Neil said, “When you get hurt early in the season, that’s not going away till the offseason. It’s something you need to learn to play with, something you need to know how to manage. It’s too violent a sport to ever get healthy. I’m sure it gives him problems at times during the course of a game. What we’re asking him to do, he’s able to execute and get it done.”

Trending: Through six games, two trends are holding true in the kicking game – blocked kicks are up and big returns are down.

Jacksonville has had two field goal tries blocked; the Browns have had one. The Browns also blocked a punt for a safety in Tennessee, their first punt block since 2003.

Through six weeks of games, there have been a total of 26 blocked kicks (12 punts, 11 field goals and three PATs). That projects to 73 over a full season. There were 38 blocked kicks all of last year.

In the return game, there have been only five scoring returns. That projects to 14. A year ago, there were 20 combined punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Further, net punting average – gross punting average minus return yards – is well over 40 yards, which used to be a benchmark of great punt coverage. Last season, the league net punting average was 39.4.

Overall, the Browns haven’t had a punt return longer than eight yards or a kickoff return longer than 32.

“There’s just not a lot of opportunities right now,” said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. “We haven’t hit the panic button at all. We didn’t have any kick returns last game. It’s down everywhere, but as the weather changes, it will change, too.”

The weather is changing the other way for the Browns. It’s expected to be in the low 80s in Jacksonville, which promotes longer kicks and shorter returns. Tabor savors the day the cold winds blow in, making the ball heavier, punts shorter and return opportunities greater.

Brownie bits: Nickel back K’Waun Williams (concussion) did not practice again on Thursday. Pettine termed his availability “doubtful” because the concussion symptoms have lingered … More than likely, Buster Skrine will drop inside to cover the slot in multiple-receiver formations in Jacksonville, and Justin Gilbert will come off the bench and play on the outside … Pettine said coaches were still undecided how to handle the center-right guard positions against the Jaguars. It’s likely that John Greco will make his first career start at center. Greco’s right guard spot is still a toss-up between Paul McQuistan and Vinston Painter … The Browns will activate another offensive lineman to get up to the minimum of seven for the game. Possibilities for that seventh spot may come down to Nick McDonald, who has been practicing this week for only the first time all season after rehabbing a wrist injury, and Ryan Seymour of the practice squad … The Browns had no update yet on Alex Mack's surgery. The team was expecting to learn, via surgery, if Mack indeed would be lost for the season ... Fire alarms ripped through the Browns’ facility during O’Neil’s regular Thursday media briefing. While several Browns exployees exited the building, quote-starved media stayed and interrogated O’Neil through several interruptions.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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