Browns coach Pat Shurmur met with reporters this morning after the team held a walk-through session. The team will practice at 1 p.m. today as it continues its mandatory minicamp. Here are some of the highlights from Shurmur’s news conference:
Naming the starting QB
It’s no secret that all signs are pointing to rookie Brandon Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, becoming the starting quarterback for the Browns before the start of the 2012 season.
But when does Shurmur want to formally name a starting quarterback?
“Sooner than later,” Shurmur said. “I think once we’ve made a decision that’s the deal I think you want to try to [name a starter]. If you know that he’s gonna be your guy, then make it happen, so everybody gets comfortable working with that guy all the time.
“Ideally we’d have a starter now. Right? Teams that are going into this offseason with a starter, that’s the most ideal situation. But when you have new players that you really like – that’s why you picked them – you just need to see them come in and do it before you make that move.”
Weeden has been taking the majority of reps with the first-team offense throughout organized team activities and minicamp. Colt McCoy, the incumbent starter, has worked more with the second unit.
Shurmur compared the Browns’ current quarterback situation to the St. Louis Rams’ situation in 2010. When Shurmur was the offensive coordinator of the Rams, they drafted Sam Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick in 2010.
“I remember this process when we were in St. Louis and drafted Sam Bradford,” Shurmur said. “Sam Bradford was playing it through, in my eyes, a lot like it’s happening here. And we had A.J. Feeley that was there, a veteran quarterback, and they shared reps. There was times when A.J. started the drills. There was times when Sam started the drills. Then it was the beginning of training camp when we named Sam the starter, and he had a pretty good year his first year.”
Even though Shurmur said the Rams made their decision early in training camp, they started Feeley in their first two preseason games. In the second game, Feeley injured his right thumb against the Browns, and Bradford replaced him. Bradford then started the final two preseason games and was officially named the Week 1 starter by then-Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo on Sept. 4. The Rams opened the season Sept. 12 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Shurmur said Bradford was not named the starter because of Feeley’s injury.
“No, that wasn’t because of that,” Shurmur said. “That was the plan all along.”
The Browns seem to have a similar plan for Weeden. Shurmur has complimented him throughout the process.
“I think I’ve seen what we expected from him,” Shurmur said. “I expected him to come in. You know it was gonna take a minute to get going, which he did a good job of getting it going. I think he understands our concepts. I think he’s quickly getting a feel for his receivers. Some things have shown up in practice that may not be as obvious to the people watching that aren’t coaching it – understanding what each receiver can do and you have mirrored routes and why you pick the one side and not the other. Some of those things have shown up, and he’s showing me that he understands how to play this game.”
Vision for backup running backs
Even though the Browns have rookie Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, Shurmur insists fellow running backs Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson will play during the upcoming season.
“Well, I think guys that aren’t the starter -- and let’s assume that Trent does [start] -- guys that are in role-player positions need to be able to come in and carry the ball a few times a game,” Shurmur said. “They need to contribute on special teams and be ready to go. I think it’s rare now that a team has one back and he plays all the reps the whole year. I think you’re seeing a situation now where teams have one, two or three guys that contribute in some way.
So whoever the starter is will get most of the reps. The other guys will come in in special situations or in a backup-type role and get their production then.”
Committed to Phil Dawson
Shurmur conceded the Browns could consider designating punter Spencer Lanning as a kickoff specialist if he proves capable of consistently producing touchbacks. But he emphasized that Phil Dawson is the team’s undisputed No. 1 kicker.
“If a guy has a rare ability to touch the ball back every time he kicks it, then I think we’ll have that discussion,” Shurmur said. “I think you have that discussion. But our kicker is Phil Dawson. Let’s make no mistake.”
Shurmur gave his thoughts about several players. Here are some of them:
On rookie offensive right tackle Mitchell Schwartz: “I think he’s very intelligent. He’s very technically sound. He’s a big-bodied guy, but he responds well, at least it looks like, to some of the speed rush that we’ve seen from our guys. I think he understands the concepts pretty well, and it’s showing up in his play.”
On rookie defensive tackles John Hughes and Billy Winn: “They use their hands well. It looks like they can separate from blocks well. Obviously we’re just not knocking each other back [in practice], so it’s hard to evaluate that. They’re doing a good job. … I think those guys are competing to be one of our defensive tackles [while Phil Taylor is sidelined with a torn left pectoral muscle].”
On wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi: “He is looking better, and I expect a lot from him and he expects a lot from himself. I’m sure when you go ask him that, he’ll tell you that. But I see much healthier Massaquoi. Mo looks good. He’s making plays. I think he’s getting comfortable with all the quarterbacks, and he’s having a good camp. I think we remember seeing him coming into camp last year injured, and he had to fight through getting healthy before he could show us what he could really do. Now he’s beyond that, knows a lot more about what we’re doing and it’s showing up.”
On defensive end Frostee Rucker: “I see initial quickness. I think he’s a guy that can rush the pass, and he’s got good size. When he’s out here playing, he’s bigger than you might think. That’s good so he can stand in there against the run, and I’ve noticed a veteran presence about him just the way he goes about his business from the meetings to the practice field. I see a presence there that will help that room.”
On wide receiver Carlton Mitchell: “I think he’s made progress. I think he’s made a few plays. I think he’s a guy that needs to do it on a consistent basis. … I think that’s what he’s doing, and he’s got a good start so far.”