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With injuries to WRs, the Browns' offensive options are decreasing

Oct 01, 2012 -- 3:55pm

By Tony Grossi


Extra Points …

Next men up: The Browns’ offense began its work week for the Giants game on Monday without Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs and Travis Benjamin.

Coach Pat Shurmur would only say each wideout is “day to day.” He wouldn’t disclose Benjamin’s injury. He did not line up for the last Baltimore punt in the Ravens’ game. Massaquoi left the Buffalo game with a hamstring injury and did not play in Baltimore. Cribbs had his block knocked off by Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe running with a punt.

So they were down to Greg Little, Josh Gordon and Jordan Norwood. On the practice squad is Josh Cooper, Brandon Weeden’s security blanket from Oklahoma State.

Might we see a little roster shuffle at wide receiver?

“We’ll have to see,” Shurmur said. “We’ll make the roster as good as we can make it. We’re gonna put the guys on the field that can play and give us the best opportunity to win. So if we have to use three tight ends, two wide receivers … whatever the combination is.”

Well, we can cross out the three tight ends option. Alex Smith still is out with a concussion suffered in the Cincinnati game.

And we know the Browns aren’t going to bring in a veteran receiver. They haven’t done that in three years.

So the options are limited to these – increase the throws to Gordon and promote Cooper from the practice squad.

They say they’re ready: Gordon has been targeted 14 times in four games and has seven catches for 93 yards.

“Any wide receiver would like to be more involved, a more sought-after receiver,” Gordon said Monday. “But from where I’m at, my role, I’m more comfortable, learning more. With guys down, one of us has to step up and be a big time player. It’s the battle of attrition. A lot of guys are getting injured, so guys like me feel the pressure to step up and make big time plays.”

If nothing else, you would think Gordon, who is 6-3 with extra long arms and a big vertical jump, could be isolated on a cornerback for a fade route in the end zone when the Browns get inside the 20.

I haven’t seen them try it yet. I asked Gordon how much the play is actually called on the practice field.

“We practice it,” he said, “But not too often. About as much as you see it in the games.

“Maybe the coaches need to have more confidence in me for them to go ahead and call my number in the big red zone plays.”

Cooper, a 5-10, 190-pound Brian Brennan-type, was Weeden’s second-favorite receiver at Oklahoma State, behind Justin Blackmon. Cooper spends his practice days running scout team routes to give the Browns’ defense a look at their next opponent.

“I could go out there and help,” he said Monday. “I understand the playbook, understand the plays. If it comes to it, I’m ready to step up and help. That’s (the coaches’) decision.

I asked Cooper about the culture shock he’s experienced here, coming from the fast-tempo spread offense at Oklahoma State to the slow, measured pace of the Browns’ halting offense.

“College was easy, man,” he said. “You’re open. It’s always an easy catch. Here you’re always going to have somebody on you. I’m definitely trying to get used to it.”

Weeden’s take: Through four games, these are the NFL leaders in pass attempts – Drew Brees, 191; Matt Stafford, 173; Weeden, 167. Those quarterbacks are a combined 1-11.

The Browns have held two leads all year, and they both were in the first game against the Eagles. They led 3-0 after one quarter and 16-10  for most of the fourth quarter. In Baltimore, the Browns threw 52 times and ran it 17, with Trent Richardson getting 14 of thos rush attempts, only four in the second half.

“When you have a guy like Trent, he’s there to take a lot of pressure off us,” Weeden said. “Like coach says, if we keep ourselves out of second- and-10 and third-and-10, you’re able to run the football. When you’re forced to throw the ball, it’s tough to win when you’re so one-dimensional. That’s not anybody’s fault but our own.

“Best case scenario, yeah, we want to throw it 30 (times) and run it 30. But we’ve got find a way to 33 the ball, whether it’s (throwing it) out of the backfield or handing it to him." 

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 tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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