Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday leftovers

In splitting their first six games of the season (the most deceiving 3-3 record in the National Football League), the Browns have shown no signs of progress from the offense. And if that doesn’t concern Pat Shurmur, something is wrong.

Quarterback Colt McCoy still finds himself either waiting way too long to deliver the pass or he’s scrambling for his life because his protection broke down too early. Not to mention receivers who have a tough time getting open.

There is no rhythm whatsoever to Cleveland’s version of the west coast offense, which has sputtered and staggered embarrassingly. If this is Shurmur’s iteration of the west coast scheme, time to make radical adjustments or get rid of it.

It is becoming more and more apparent that McCoy is most uncomfortable with the philosophy. While his feet dances a jig and his head swivels furiously, he becomes less and less like the quarterback who looked decent in the last half of the 2010 season.

Because the west coast is a strict scheme that requires precise timing, he is much less accurate with his passes than last season, when he was not restricted to short- and medium-range passes.

That does not bode well for the running game, whose success depends heavily on passing accuracy from the quarterback. In the west coast, unlike more conventional offenses, the pass sets up the run.

Shurmur, it seems, stubbornly sticks with the same game plan week in and week out. Receivers rarely are seen downfield. And when they do get open, they usually catch the ball flat-footed. It’s almost as though McCoy is playing with one hand tied behind his back.

The coach is determined to make this thing work even though it has become apparent that opposing defenses have locked into his thinking process.

All that makes it much more difficult for the defense, the only reason the Browns have won three games. That defense, with a couple of notable exceptions, has played very well and saved Shurmur’s coaching butt.

If he insists on continuing to coach this brand of offense, the season will wind up in disastrous fashion because the defense can last just so long before wearing down. The defense has picked up the offense thus far. It’s time for the offense to reciprocate.

* * *

Sometimes, coaches make stupid statements. OK, maybe more often than sometimes. Here’s the latest Shurmur beauty.

“I don’t feel we are regressing,” he said after Sunday’s 6-3 blowout of the Seattle Seahawks. “They (the Seahawks) have a pretty good defense. We just need to get more points.”

Ya think? You’re not regressing and you need to get more points? Right and wrong. Yes, you need to get more points and the reason you are not is because your offense is regressing.

* * *

More Shurmur: “It’s a credit to the players, to the coaches . . . to hold an NFL team to three points. That’s outstanding.” Apparently he did not notice or take into consideration how awful the Seattle offense played. It was not all because of the Cleveland defense.

Come to think of it, Seattle coach Pete Carroll could very well have said the same thing if he wanted (smartly, he didn’t), changing the number of points allowed to six.

* * *

In assessing McCoy’s performance, the coach said, “Colt battled. That’s what I’ll say about how he played.”

That’s called damning with faint praise.

* * *

It appears safe to say Montario Hardesty’s knee problems are a thing of the past. What other conclusion can be arrived at after watching him carry the ball 33 times, catch two passes and total 122 yards from scrimmage against Seattle.

Remember how Hardesty was babied in training camp, the exhibition games and the beginning stages of the season when Peyton Hillis was healthy? After Sunday’s game, consider Hardesty a threat to become the lead running back.

He ran hard, hit some holes quickly, but seemed to have a problem with picking the right hole. More reps should take care of the latter problem.

* * *

Another pleasant surprise was the running and pass catching of running back Chris Ogbonnaya. Mere days after joining the Browns, McCoy’s ex-teammate at the University of Texas picked up 15 yards in three carries and caught all five passes thrown his way (three for a first down) for 43 yards.

With Hillis still slowed by a hamstring injury, it’ll be interesting to see how Shurmur plans to use Ogbonnaya and Hardesty this Sunday in San Francisco. Wouldn’t mind seeing more of double dose of them based on what we saw against Seattle.

* * *

It’s somewhat ironic, from a special teams standpoint, that the Browns will be in San Francisco this weekend. Brad Seely, who coached Cleveland’s special teams so well the last two seasons, now calls the shots for the 49ers’ special teams.

Given the problems the Browns have had on special teams the last two weeks, one has to wonder why Cleveland allowed Seely to head west. Current Browns special teams coach Chris Tabor has got to be feeling some heat.

* * *

Seattle wideout Mike Williams after the game: “I don’t want to disrespect Cleveland or anything. They played a good game, but we are better.”

With all due respect, Mike, no you’re not.

* * *

Stream of thought: Joshua Cribbs was targeted six times by McCoy against the Seahawks and caught only one pass. How much longer will it take Shurmur to realize Cribbs is not a wide receiver? . . . With Cribbs relatively non-productive and Mo Massaquoi and Ben Watson most likely sidelined with concussions, maybe Shurmur now will give Evan Moore more playing time. Maybe. . . . When John Greco replaced the injured Shawn Lauvao at right guard against the Seahawks, the running game seemed to pick up. . . . Cornerback Joe Haden playing on a balky knee is better than anyone else in the Cleveland secondary who is completely healthy. . . . And what’s with Brad Maynard’s nine-yard punt in the second quarter? It wasn’t costly, but nine yards? C’mon. Why is he still on the team? Time for more tryouts.

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