July 29, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
59°F

A win would make Campbell toast of the town

 

Scott Petrak

The Gazette

BEREA — Jason Campbell was on the field for five snaps in Week 2.

He’s not counting them as experience in the Browns-Ravens rivalry.

“No, I couldn’t really get a feel,” he said. “My mind was moving faster than my bones at that point.”

The Browns will have a dramatically different Campbell, 31, on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. He made his first start of the year last week against Kansas City, going 22-for-36 for 293 yards, two touchdowns and a 105.4 rating in the 23-17 loss.

“He did a nice job all across the board,” left tackle Joe Thomas said Friday. “He played with a good tempo in the huddle. He played with control. He had a command of everything that was going on with the offense.

“He did a good job making quick reads, getting rid of the ball when he was supposed to get rid of it, just doing the things that as a starting quarterback you need to be able to do.”

Campbell has 31 wins in 72 career starts. If his first victory with Cleveland were to come Sunday, it would go a long way with the organization and fan base. The Browns have lost 11 straight to the Ravens and are trying to gain ground in the AFC North after Cincinnati (6-3) lost Thursday night.

The Browns haven’t contended for a playoff spot since 2007, also the last time they beat Baltimore. Quarterback Derek Anderson led a season sweep, including a 33-30 overtime win in Baltimore on Nov. 18 — the last Cleveland win in the series. The game is best remembered for Phil Dawson’s overtime-forcing kick that hit the curved bar behind the crossbar and bounced back into the end zone.

In the nearly six years since, Anderson, Brady Quinn, Seneca Wallace, Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden have started at quarterback vs. the Ravens. Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur and Rob Chudzinski have been the losing coaches, while Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco are 11-for-11. Flacco has the most wins without a loss against an opponent since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

“I’m excited, because I think Jason’s playing well,” Thomas said. “He’s going to be even better than he was last week. It’s encouraging because if he plays just a little better, everyone else plays a little bit better around him, I think we can be a pretty good offense.”

The Browns (3-5) used three starting quarterbacks in the first eight games. Campbell is the man until further notice, and the hope is stability at the most crucial position leads to greater success.

“It would really help in terms of continuity,” coordinator Norv Turner said. “You want to have the same guy in there, the huddle calls, the play calls, the guys getting comfortable. You get in those third downs, you get in a two-minute situation, you get in a red zone situation, that’s where it gets so much more intensified. And that’s where we have to grow and having the same guy in there (should help).”

Campbell’s series in Week 2 was his first action of the season and came in the fourth quarter after Weeden sprained his right thumb. Campbell took over at the 1-yard line and went 1-for-4 for 6 yards.

That seems like an eternity ago. The Browns think the entire offense has been upgraded since the 14-6 loss in Baltimore and enter the rematch with a healthy dose of confidence.

“I just think we’re better than we were from an offensive growth standpoint,” Campbell said. “We didn’t have all the players that we have now. I think guys have a better understanding of what we’re doing offensively.”

Receiver Josh Gordon was suspended and right guard Shawn Lauvao was out following ankle surgery. They’ve made a difference since returning, but the focus is on Campbell as he tries to build on the Chiefs start and lead a surge in the second half of the season.

“Jason’s played pretty well (in his career) when he’s been surrounded by a good group,” Turner said. “He’s obviously great to be around and great to have around our young players. Because he’s a pro and he’s been around it, you know what you’re getting every day from him.”

Campbell is soft-spoken in conversation and has a calm presence. Tight end Jordan Cameron said that changes in the huddle.

“He’s a little different. He gets on a knee and he’s like, ‘Come on, guys,’” he said. “It’s not funny, but it’s different. You can tell he’s got some confidence about him that really carries over to us and we take a lot from that.

“We trust in him, we trust in his abilities and I know every receiver does. He’s just got to carry this over from last week and I think he will.”

Campbell would be helped greatly if receivers Greg Little (21 catches, 218 yards, one touchdown) and Davone Bess (28, 261, zero) made a noticeable contribution. Bess leads the league with nine drops, according to profootballfocus.com, and Little doesn’t have more than four catches in a game.

“Jordan and Josh are making most of the plays in the passing game and we need to get everyone involved,” Turner said. “If you only have two guys really making a lot of plays, pretty soon that can dry up.”

Turner expressed confidence in Bess’ ability to bounce back because of his track record. He absolved Little of part of the blame.

“He’s had some bad luck,” Turner said. “He’s had two or three times where he’s been completely open deep, he’s run great routes, double moves, and for some reason we didn’t get the ball off. But there are going to be opportunities for him. I think when they start doubling Josh and we start having some issues, I think he’s going to start having an opportunity to make some plays.”

Campbell has never played in the AFC North, and his previous experience against Baltimore came in a 2008 loss for the Redskins. He went 21-for-37 for 218 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 60.4 rating.

“With me being new to this division, I pretty much have to catch up to speed on a lot of things,” he said. “It’s all about your studying and your preparation from Wednesday through Friday.

“They’re still a good defense. They’re still the defending Super Bowl champs. They’re coming in here with the mindset of must-win as well, so it kind of puts a playoff atmosphere-type feel to it.”

Cornerback Joe Haden is excited for the possibility of Campbell remaining under center for the next eight weeks.

“It’ll do wonders for us,” he said. “I love J.C., he’s a good quarterback. He did a great job against the Chiefs. If we can have offense production like this and our defense keeps playing like we should, the proof is in the pudding of what we can do. We can have a really, really good team.”

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