By Tony Grossi
By Tony Grossi
Seneca Wallace outplayed Colt McCoy and Brandon Jackson outplayed Montario Hardesty in the Browns’ final preseason game Thursday night, a dismal 28-20 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Will those developments result in a shakeup at backup quarterback and running back?
Coach Pat Shurmur’s answer after the game essentially was “You’ll know in 24 hours.”
The Browns don’t have to announce their cutdown to 53 players until 9 o’clock Friday night. In the era of GM Tom Heckert, who has authority over the final roster, the Browns usually keep their cuts a secret until the deadline.
The only real drama entails the quarterback debate, which has been restricted all summer to the futures of McCoy and Wallace. Who’s No. 2? Do they both stay? Can they co-exist behind starter Brandon Weeden?
“I think we end up keeping them both,” said one team leader after the game. “I mean, why wouldn’t we?”
A trade of McCoy or Wallace would seem to be out of the question after embattled Green Bay backup Graham Harrell summoned his Brett Favre self in a job-saving performance against Kansas City. Harrell amassed a perfect 158.3 passer rating by completing 13 of 15 for 223 yards and two TDs in the Packers’ preseason finale.
Shurmur gave off conflicting signals about his plans after the game.
In one comment, he said, “I think all three quarterbacks (counting Thad Lewis) played like backups tonight. I can see a lot of different scenarios.”
Pressed for more clarity on the QBs, Shurmur said, “I do know what I want to do. I’m just not telling you. And I’m allowed.”
Pestered a third time if this game changed anything, Shurmur said, “I’m going to evaluate everything, and we’ll find out tomorrow. I know you’re all trying to predict. I get that. But we’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
McCoy started the game and produced one interception and two punts in three possessions. He was 2 of 5 for 16 yards and a sack. His interception came on a high pass intended for Jordan Norwood.
“I wouldn’t say I’m worried,” McCoy said of his status. “I trust in the Lord, for everything I do. I’m confident in that. Wherever He leads me, if He has me here, or somewhere else, I’ll be fine.
“I’ve practiced well. I’ve improved. I feel confident.”
Wallace relieved McCoy in the second quarter. The Browns punted after four plays on Wallace’s first possession. On the second, Wallace and Jackson combined for an 80-yard scoring drive in eight plays.
Wallace got the drive going on a 22-yard completion to Josh Cribbs and a 20-yard scramble run. Jackson then carried successive times for gains of 12, 10, 6, and 8 yards. After Jackson was stopped for no gain at the 2, Wallace completed the drive with a nice pass to Rod Windsor in the back of the end zone after a play-fake.
Wallace, who has calmly taken a back seat to McCoy in this pseudo-battle all summer, was 3 of 4 for 36 yards.
Both quarterbacks played behind the No. 2 offensive line made up of John Greco, Stanley Daniels, Garth Gerhart, Jarrod Shaw and Ryan Miller.
Wallace, who was pleased with his night, said, “The only opportunities you get, you’ve got to take advantage of.”
Asked if he and McCoy both could survive the final cut, Wallace said, “Possibly can. Obviously, there’s some other stuff that has to take place. At this point, me, Colt, Brandon (Weeden) and Thad, we all did what we could. It’s not in our hands anymore.
“This isn’t my first rodeo. I felt I’ve done all I can and whatever decision is made, is made. ”
Wallace, who said in June that he wouldn’t be happy being the No. 3 quarterback, wouldn’t comment on that possibility after the game. But he answered, “Yes, of course,” when asked if he wanted to be back.
“We are doing some great things here. They made some big changes, brought in some good players. A very young team. Obviously the new owner’s coming in. We’re just trying to change the whole atmosphere around here in Cleveland. The city has been waiting for some winners, especially in football, and that’s what he’s trying to do.”
Hardesty started the game and did not fumble – for the first time in three games – but he was largely ineffective. He had one run for 14 yards, but gained only 10 on his other five.
Jackson rushed seven times for 48 yards and may have stolen the No. 2 job and put himself in line to start Sept. 9 in the season opener if rookie Trent Richardson is not ready.
“I’m running for a spot on this team,” Jackson said. “I’m praying for it. It’s all I can do, just be accountable and take advantage of my opportunities, and I feel like I did that tonight.”
The Browns had more lowlights as their preseason record evened at 2-2.
Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson, who was the only player on the first-team defense to play, left the game in the second quarter with what was announced as an oblique injury. Shurmur downplayed the severity and offered no update.
The Browns also gave up a blocked punt for the second game in a row. Further, rookie Travis Benjamin lost a fumble on a punt return.
Lewis, who is still in the mix as the third quarterback, played the entire second half and was 4 of 9 for 56 yards with an interception. He oversaw 13 points, however.
|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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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