April 24, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
36°F

Browns: Keeping a level head, Chud downplays loss

Coach Rob Chudzinski didn’t overreact to the Browns’ 27-6 loss to the Colts on Saturday night. Just like he didn’t read too much into the impressive wins over the Rams and Lions.

“Just want to make sure we put this in perspective,” he said Sunday on a conference call with beat writers. “It is a preseason game, it was a real good learning opportunity for us, playing against a real good team. And it’s a good chance for us to evaluate ourselves, evaluate our personnel as we’re moving forward here.”

Chudzinski was disappointed in the two turnovers, nine penalties, multiple mental mistakes and the fact quarterback Brandon Weeden and the first-team offense were 3-for-10 on third down.

“We’re going to continue to work to be more consistent and to be consistent and build a foundation of what we feel like is a young team that has a chance to get better and make progress,” Chudzinski said. “Need to get back to work here and am really looking forward to see how our guys respond.”

The preseason finale is Thursday in Chicago, and Chudzinski sounded like he’s leaning toward playing the starters.

“We’re going to approach this next game that those guys are going to play,” he said. “And then I’ll make that determination later in the week as it goes on.”

The reason to rest the starters is obvious: a chance for injury. But there are reasons to play them.

“A new system and wanting the guys to get more reps,” Chudzinski said. “We’re playing a lot of young guys that just haven’t played a lot of football in the NFL. So that combination of a new system and not having a lot of experience is something that the preseason can help with.”

The lack of offensive production (three points in eight possessions) and defensive stops (Indianapolis’ first-team offense scored 17 points in a half plus a series) won’t influence Chudzinski’s decision to play the starters vs. the Bears. But the calendar might.

“It will have been a little over two weeks if you don’t play the starters until the first game,” he said. “So that’s a decent amount of time without playing a game.”

Weeden, who had a 139.8 rating through two games, completed his first six passes against the Colts but finished 12-for-25 for 105 yards and a 59.6 rating. Some observers tried to compare the performance to his inconsistent rookie season, but not Chudzinski.

“I don’t see it as any sort of comparison towards 2012, but I think it was a combination of things,” he said. “We had some protection breakdowns and there were some pressures and he got hit a couple of times actually delivering the ball.

“They covered very well so there were a number of times there really weren’t guys open and he had to get to his checkdowns or throw the ball away. We had some drops and we did have some missed opportunities. He can play better. He has and we can continue to help him.”

Weeden was almost intercepted twice, missed a couple of open receivers and must find the proper balance between looking deep and dumping the ball underneath. But the offensive struggles shouldn’t be pinned on him alone. Receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron didn’t provide much assistance.

“They had played much better in the first couple games,” Chudzinski said. “Indianapolis has a real good secondary and they did a good job of covering our guys. We need to keep working and improving and working on our technique and then making the plays when we have opportunities.”

Cousins steps up

Oniel Cousins has eased Chudzinski’s mind and slowed the front office’s quest to add a veteran right guard. Cousins started Saturday night and earned a passing grade.

“Oniel did a good job going in there and playing,” Chudzinski said.

Cousins, a natural right tackle, has started one regular-season game at guard in his five-year career, but was forced into the lineup when Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston were lost for at least the first couple of games with ankle injuries. Cousins is also returning from an ankle sprain.

“So he’s adjusting in a couple different ways, on a couple different fronts,” Chudzinski said. “He gives us a physical presence, he’s one of our more physical guys. He played hard and assignment-wise he was pretty solid. There were some technique things that we need to continue to work on, and then just him playing in there and being used to combination blocks and playing next to the guys that he’s playing next to. But I was pleased overall with him.”

Rookie Garrett Gilkey, a seventh-round pick, played two series with the starters and Cousins played six.

“I feel like Garrett’s getting better every week, and he just needs to continue to make progress,” Chudzinski said. “I’ve been comforted both by Oniel’s performance in the game and Gilkey’s development.”

Injury report

Outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard (knee), tight end Gary Barnidge (shoulder), receiver Davone Bess (knee) and receiver Jordan Norwood (hamstring) are expected to return to practice today.

• Chudzinski said receiver David Nelson (knee) will play against the Bears. He returned to practice Aug. 18 but didn’t play in the first three preseason games.

• Chudzinski said rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo is doing well and riding the bike. He said bruised lung is still the diagnosis.

“We have a lot of faith and the doctors are some of the best in the world at the Cleveland Clinic, so we’re following their advice on it and we’ll get him out there as soon as he’s cleared,” Chudzinski said. “There’s no specific or definite timetable.”

• Rookie safety Jamoris Slaughter (groin) won’t practice today and is day-to-day.

• Chudzinski said backup quarterback Jason Campbell is fine after taking a hit Saturday and getting up slowly.

Front-runners

Chudzinski declared punter Spencer Lanning and kicker Shayne Graham the “leading candidates” to win the jobs.

Lanning is the only punter left on the roster and averaged 46.7 yards and a 39.6 net on seven punts vs. the Colts. He had a long of 65 and two inside the 20-yard line.

Graham, 35, has benefited from rookie Brandon Bogotay missing the last week-plus with a groin injury. Graham was good from 50 and 44 yards vs. the Colts.

“Hitting that 50-yarder, that was a really good hit,” Chudzinski said. “It was good to see him be able to do that.”

Solid debut for Thornton

Oberlin High School graduate Hugh Thornton made his NFL debut for the Colts and saw time at right guard with the first team. He had missed the first two games with an ankle sprain.

“I thought he played really well for a guy that hasn’t taken any snaps since we finished the rookie minicamp prior to training camp,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano told reporters. “He knocked off a little bit of rust, but he looked pretty good in there, both in the run and the pass game. Very pleased with his performance.”

Pagano was asked if Thornton could start if needed.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t hesitate to throw him in there,” he said. “From what I saw on the tape from last night, I wouldn’t hesitate to do that.”

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