September 19, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
57°F

Backups to the forefront: Browns sloppy again in loss to Bears, but QB questions take center stage

CLEVELAND — The most intriguing roster decisions to be made today by the Browns involve the backup quarterbacks. After a month of training camp and four preseason games, coach Pat Shurmur has all the information he needs.

“I do know what I want to do,” he said Thursday night. “I’m just not telling you.”

Shurmur was talking after the preseason ended with a second straight loss marred by turnovers and a blocked punt. The Browns fell 28-20 to Chicago to finish the preseason 2-2. The regular season starts Sept. 9 with a visit from the Eagles.

The postgame interviews were dominated by questions about the backup quarterbacks. Will Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace both make the roster? If so, which one will be the primary backup for rookie starter Brandon Weeden?

If not, who gets cut or traded?

“We’ll find out (today),” Shurmur said. “I can envision a lot of scenarios.”

The roster must be at 53 by tonight at 9.

McCoy got the start Thursday, but his solid preseason ended on a sour note. He played the first quarter and went 2-for-5 for 16 yards, an interception and a 9.2 rating. The interception set up a Bears touchdown.

He was followed by Wallace and Thaddeus Lewis, a prospect Shurmur believes he can develop as the No. 3. Each made mistakes, but Wallace and Lewis led touchdown drives.

“All three quarterbacks played like backups tonight, and I’ll leave it at that,” Shurmur said.
Shurmur is committed to Weeden — who sat out along with the starting offensive line — and doesn’t understand all the focus on the backup quarterbacks. But that’s a favorite hobby for Cleveland fans, and McCoy is loved by many.

“I’ll let you guys talk about it,” McCoy said when asked about winning the backup job. “Ask Pat. I have not thought about that one time through this whole offseason, through OTAs, through training camp. My mind has not wandered there. My mind has been completely focused on making myself a better quarterback, helping my teammates.”

McCoy was the biggest name to play Thursday, and the most intriguing. He was the starter last season, but lost the job to Weeden and has been mentioned in trade rumors.

His performance did nothing to improve his stock. Green Bay, the most obvious trading partner, could stick with Graham Harrell as its backup after he went 13-for-15 for 223 yards and two touchdowns Thursday night.

McCoy finished the preseason 20-for-29 for 250 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 92.6 rating.

“It’s been good. I haven’t played that much,” McCoy said. “Through practice and studying, I feel great.”
McCoy, 25, will make only $540,000 this year. Wallace, 32, is due $2.4 million.

Wallace has flown under the radar throughout camp but knows how to prepare as the
No. 2 and is trusted by president Mike Holmgren. Wallace went 16-for-27 for 195 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and a 90.8 rating in the preseason.

He said he doesn’t know if he’ll make the team, but wants to stay.

“Of course. We are doing some great things,” he said. “This isn’t my first rodeo. I felt like I’ve done all I can. Whatever decision is made is made.”

The result of the game will quickly be forgotten, which is a good thing for Shurmur. The Browns were sloppy for a second straight week, committing three turnovers and having a punt blocked.

“Again the story is turnovers,” Shurmur said. “You factor in the blocked punt, which our guy just got bull rushed there — my goodness gracious — and 21 points.”

Backup receiver Rod Windsor, who’s a huge long shot to make the roster, was filling in and got pushed into Reggie Hodges. The kick hit Windsor in the back and was returned for a touchdown.

It was the second return touchdown by Chicago within 90 seconds of the third quarter. A Lewis pass was tipped in the air by a defensive back and went through rookie receiver Josh Gordon’s hands. The ball appeared to hit the ground, but cornerback Greg McCoy grabbed it and returned it 15 yards.
Shurmur rested nearly all of his starters to avoid injuries, but he still got bit. Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson, who could open the season as a starter if Scott Fujita is suspended, left the game in the second quarter with an oblique injury. He was twisting his left side on the sideline and returned for one play, but was in pain, left the game and walked into the locker room.

Shurmur said X-rays were negative. Lewis sprained a thumb, but said he’s fine.

McCoy began the game behind the second-team offensive line. He was joined by a couple of projected starters, receiver Greg Little and fullback Owen Marecic. Running back Montario Hardesty, who’s been the starter with rookie Trent Richardson sidelined by knee surgery, also played. He carried six times for 24 yards.

Gordon, who’s being fast-tracked into the lineup, played into the third quarter. He had one catch for 17 yards.

Brandon Jackson made a case that he should be ahead of Hardesty on the depth chart. Jackson ran hard and finished with seven carries for 48 yards.

The primary purpose of the fourth preseason game — besides making the NFL money — is to get a final evaluation on the players fighting for the last roster spots.

Among the players on the bubble, cornerback James Dockery was penalized twice for pass interference and had a pass breakup, safety David Sims allowed a touchdown on a slant and rookie linebacker L.J. Fort was extremely active.

Rookie running back Adonis Thomas made a case to land on the practice squad. He had a 64-yard run, then capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown jump over the pile.

“As you might expect, there’s a lot going on in the next 24 hours in terms of getting the game evaluated and then finalizing our roster.

“We are responsible for a team and a city and we have got to put the best 53 guys out there based on the information that we have.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Bears 28, Browns 20

Chicago        7    7    14    0    —    28
Cleveland    0    7    3    10    —    20
First Quarter
Chi—Sanzenbacher 30 pass from McCown (Gould kick), 6:15.
Second Quarter
Chi—Allen 11 pass from McCown (Gould kick), 4:19.
Cle—Windsor 2 pass from Wallace (Dawson kick), :41.
Third Quarter
Cle—FG Dawson 39, 11:19.
Chi—McCoy 15 interception return (Gould kick), 4:56.
Chi—Golden 22 blocked punt return (Gould kick), 3:26.
Fourth Quarter
Cle—A.Thomas 1 run (Dawson kick), 10:09.
Cle—FG Dawson 42, 4:58.
A—54,297.
Chi           Cle
First downs                                          19            15
Total Net Yards                               337         290
Rushes-yards                                39-180   29-196
Passing                                                 157           94
Punt Returns                                     2-11        1-18
Kickoff Returns                               5-111       1-25
Interceptions Ret.                           2-28        1-0
Comp-Att-Int                                20-29-1    9-18-2
Sacked-Yards Lost                            0-0         2-14
Punts                                                    4-40.3    5-30.6
Fumbles-Lost                                      0-0             1-1
Penalties-Yards                                 6-38          5-50
Time of Possession                           36:54      23:06
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING—Chicago, Allen 16-83, Booker 15-81, McCown 8-16. Cleveland, A.Thomas 11-81, B.Jackson 7-48, Hardesty 6-24, Lewis 3-23, Wallace 2-20.
PASSING—Chicago, McCown 20-29-1-157. Cleveland, Lewis 4-9-1-56, Wallace 3-4-0-36, McCoy 2-5-1-16.
RECEIVING—Chicago, Allen 5-51, Booker 4-16, Clutts 3-14, Sanzenbacher 2-34, Anderson 2-15, Weems 1-12, Golden 1-6, Venson 1-5, Crump 1-4. Cleveland, Cribbs 2-34, Windsor 2-16, Gordon 1-17, A.Thomas 1-13, Gronkowski 1-12, Moore 1-12, Benjamin 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Chicago, Gould 35 (WL).