Pat Shurmur says he’s not worried about his wide receivers. Not exactly bulletin stuff.
At this point, he shouldn’t be worried. They’re all wearing shorts and helmets and no one is touching them.
Nowhere in the head-coaching manual is a coach permitted to wax pessimistic at any time during the season, let alone at this time of the season. It’s a minicamp, for crying out loud.
“I think we have some guys (who are) good players and I think they’ve had a chance to play a year in the system and improve their game,” the Browns’ head coach said Tuesday after the first minicamp practice in Berea.
All true. It’s one year later, one year of the west coast offense under their belts and improvement is expected. What else do you expect him to say?
Shurmur is an optimist. All coaches are optimists. They can’t help themselves.
What you have to do is wade through the rhetoric, cast aside the usual bullroar before arriving at the conclusion that the Browns still have one of the worst wide receiver corps in the National Football League.
Unless Greg Little starts holding onto passes, Mo Massaquoi suddenly discovers how to get off the line of scrimmage with consistency and Joshua Cribbs finally masters the art of playing wide receiver, that label will stick.
Shurmur tried to spread a little cheer in Massaquoi’s direction after the first practice. “I think he’s had a great offseason,” the coach said. “I’m very pleased with where he is. He’s come in healthy. He’s taken advantage of the offseason and he’s made plays out there.”
And what constitutes a great offseason? Recovering successfully from a concussion? Still able to remain vertical? Didn’t drop a pass? How does that translate into great?
As for making plays, remember everyone is in shorts and helmets. No hitting.
What will Massaquoi do the first time the pads and full uniform go on and he is called on to run a short slant with someone in his face? With at least one concussion in his past, how gun shy will he be when called on to journey into traffic?
Another reason Cleveland receivers are not that feared is they run routes that are not crisp. Trying to be nice here. Running disciplined and correct routes, especially in the west coast, is mandatory. With Cleveland receivers, it’s a lost art.
Brandon Weeden, however, is impressed with his new receivers. “I wasn’t here last year,” the rookie quarterback said. “From what I see, the group has a lot of ability and can play. And not just the wide receivers. We have a good group at tight end.”
In a moment of clarity, Shurmur nailed it. “The receivers have to get open (bingo!) and the quarterback has to get them the ball (double bingo!!),” he said. “I do know with a receiver who gets open and a quarterback who gets the ball to him accurately, now you have a chance to do something with the ball.”
So easy to say, so much more difficult to accomplish with a bunch of receivers who have shown in the past that they don’t have what it takes to take that next step.
But if Weeden can somehow make this group look good, rather than vice-versa, then the 2012 season could be more entertaining than originally thought.