Browns coach Eric Mangini doesn’t do giddy.
But he came close Saturday night when asked about his new and improved quarterback situation.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said after a 35-27 loss to the Lions.
Through three preseason games, Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace have been everything the Browns could’ve hoped when acquiring them in the offseason to stabilize the soap opera at quarterback.
The transformation begins with Delhomme.
He has been poised, accurate and efficient. He’s completed 79 percent of his passes (38-for-48) for 345 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, a lost fumble, a sack and a 110.5 rating.
“He’s been outstanding throughout the whole preseason,” Mangini said. “I hope you guys see it, the way he runs the offense and gets us into good plays when we’re not necessarily in the best situations.
“That’s what I’m looking for from our quarterback. To be efficient and to also be a really good decision-maker.”
Mangini was due for a break at the game’s most important position following the trials of the last two seasons.
In 2008 with the Jets, Brett Favre crumbled down the stretch with a bad arm and a string of interceptions, New York missed the playoffs and Mangini was fired. In his first year with the Browns, Mangini subjected himself and everyone else to the Brady Quinn-Derek Anderson carousel catastrophe that destroyed the season.
President Mike Holmgren was hired to clean up the mess and acted as decisively as “The Wolf” in “Pulp Fiction.” Holmgren cut Anderson, traded Quinn and, despite numerous naysayers, acquired veterans Delhomme and Wallace.
The lack of accuracy, leadership and good decisions made Mangini cringe for much of last season. He runs a tight ship and demands the same from his quarterbacks. He was thrilled by the offense’s efficiency – excluding the three fumbles – against the Lions, as it compiled 414 yards.
“(The quarterbacks) are part of that feeling, but the whole operation I thought was very good,” he said.
The Browns started in the no huddle and used if for most of the game. It puts stress on the defense and lets the Browns control the tempo. They used multiple personnel groups and pre-snap motions within the no huddle and weren’t bothered by formation or delay penalties.
“That’s not easy to do,” Mangini said. “It takes real concentration.”
Delhomme brings a savvy to the position that’s best observed in details. Twice he used a hard count to draw the aggressive Lions defense offsides. When faced with pressure, he’s able to slide in the pocket and switch arm angles to find an opening.
“He’s a cocky young fella,” running back Jerome Harrison said of Delhomme, 35. “He’s still got a lot of jazz to him. He’s a quarterback you know has your back through thick and thin. You’ve got to love him.”
Browns fans may have forgotten after last year’s season of 49.4 percent, but completions are crucial. They generate positive vibes, extend drives and allow the offense to get in a rhythm.
Delhomme has completed 59.2 percent over his career, but bottomed out at 55.5 percent in a difficult 2009 that included 18 interceptions. He isn’t focused on the preseason statistics, no matter how good they’ve been.
“You just try to work the offense,” said Delhomme, who threw a 5-yard touchdown to fullback Lawrence Vickers and completed passes to 10 receivers Saturday. “Let the offense work for you, take what they give you and that’s a big thing I’m trying to do. I’m trying to take check-downs, not trying to force it.”
Wallace’s role can’t be overlooked. He’s fit in seamlessly in his time with the starters and replaced Delhomme during the first drive Saturday for a couple of plays inside the red zone.
In three games, he’s 13-for-26 for 230 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a 103.0 rating. He’s also made plays running, which frustrates the defense.
“He gives us nice balance and it’s a nice difference of types of quarterbacks,” Mangini said. “Having both ready to play at different points of the game is something that our opponents (will have) to prepare for each week.”
Wallace has developed a nice rapport with receiver Joshua Cribbs. The pair are multitalented threats who should keep defensive coordinators awake at night anticipating how each could be used in the Wildcat formation.
“It’s a whole ‘nother set of problems for defenses when he’s in there,” Mangini said of Wallace. “He’s done an excellent job with his opportunities.
“He’s consistently moved the offense and when things break down, he can get us out of those plays with his feet.”
Mangini was smiling again. After all, he was talking about his quarterbacks.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• WHO: Cleveland vs. Chicago
• WHEN: Thursday, 8 p.m.
• WHERE: Cleveland Browns Stadium
• TV/RADIO: Channel 3; WMMS 100.7-FM
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