June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Colt McCoy struggles in Browns’ preseason finale

CLEVELAND — Quarterback Colt McCoy got the start Thursday night in the exhibition finale, but his solid preseason ended on a sour note.

McCoy played the first quarter and went 2-for-5 for 16 yards, an interception and a 9.2 rating. His interception set up a Bears touchdown in a game the Browns went on to lose 28-20 to end the preseason 2-2.

Chicago defensive lineman James Brown (78) pursues Browns running back Montario Hardesty. (AP PHOTO)

The record is already forgotten. The games that count begin Sept. 9 with a visit from the Philadelphia Eagles.

McCoy was the biggest name to play Thursday, and the most intriguing.

He was the starter last season, but lost the job to rookie Brandon Weeden, who got the night off, along with most of the starters on both teams. The Browns haven’t committed to McCoy as the No. 2 quarterback and he’s been mentioned in trade rumors.

His performance Thursday did nothing to improve his stock on either front. 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.

If a trade isn’t an option, Browns general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur must decide whether to make McCoy or veteran backup Seneca Wallace the No. 2 QB behind Weeden. If Wallace is the choice, the next decision is whether to keep McCoy — he will make only $540,000 this year — or cut him.

“I don’t know if this is going to totally tell the story,” Shurmur said. “I think we have to keep everything in mind on that. We obviously didn’t play well on offense in the first half.”

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

Wallace, who is scheduled to make $2.4 million, replaced McCoy for the second quarter and led a touchdown drive. Running back Brandon Jackson did most of the work on the possession — five carries for 36 yards — but Wallace finished 3-for-4 for 36 yards, a 2-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rod Windsor and a 141.7 rating.

Wallace has flown under the radar throughout camp but knows how to prepare as the No. 2 quarterback 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.

“I thought Seneca did a nice job of executing the drive,” Shurmur said. “We got some good runs out of Brandon Jackson there, too. There was some good stuff in there.”

The night was mostly bad for the Browns.

After cutting Chicago’s lead to 14-10, the Browns gave up a pair of return touchdowns within 90 seconds of the third quarter.

A Thaddeus 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. The play was called an incompletion, but the Bears successfully challenged for the score.

After the next Cleveland drive fizzled, Reggie Hodges suffered his second blocked punt of the preseason. Windsor was driven back into Hodges by linebacker Patrick Trahan, and the kick hit Windsor in the back. Brittan Golden picked up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown.

On the next punt, Windsor was driven back again by Trahan. Hodges got the punt off, but was knocked over by Windsor.

“We didn’t play well enough to beat anybody, but I do feel like we have made progress as a team,” Shurmur said. “This fourth preseason game isn’t a total indication one way or the other of where you are at because you have a lot of guys standing on the sideline.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.