BEREA: The Browns marvel at the long reign of dominance by Washington Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher.
“He has been around forever,” offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “He’s like a dinosaur.”
If that’s the case, he’s akin to a ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Fletcher, a 37-year-old Cleveland native, has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons. He led the NFL last season with a career-high 166 tackles.
“He’s one of those guys you have to know where he’s at on the field,” Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson said. “I don’t say that about too many guys, but you have to know where he’s at. He’s still moving good. He’s still getting by like he is 23 or 24.”
Fletcher, who’s in his 15th NFL season, has played in 237 consecutive games, tying Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Ronde Barber for the longest streak among active players.
“He’s amazing isn’t he?” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s obviously got a lot of great stuff at his core because he’s been there for a very long time, and, of course, St. Louis and Buffalo. I admire him for a lot of reasons. Believe it or not, he’s kind of flown under the radar as a middle linebacker in this league.”
But Fletcher, somehow, has never played a regular-season NFL game in his hometown. That will change Sunday, when the Redskins (7-6) visit the Browns (5-8).
Fletcher, a product of John Carroll University and Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, will likely ensure that all of Northeast Ohio knows he is the heart and soul of the Redskins’ defense.
“It’s amazing that a guy playing that position could still be as effective as he is,” Childress said. “You can see his passion for the game. He truly is their quarterback on that side of the ball. You see him get people lined up. [He’s] still playing at a high, high level.”
The Redskins’ pass defense is ranked 31st in the league (289.3 passing yards allowed per game). But with Fletcher stationed in the center of their 3-4 scheme, the Redskins’ run defense is seventh (98.8 rushing yards allowed per game). Fletcher has a team-high 150 tackles this season.
“Fletcher looks good out there,” Browns center Alex Mack said. “He doesn’t look how old he is. He certainly still has it.”
Finding his role
After missing his rookie season in 2010 with a torn ACL and about half of last season with an injured calf, backup running back Montario Hardesty has managed to stay healthy this year. It has paid off, too.
Hardesty had 10 carries for 52 yards Sunday in the Browns’ 30-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He has 215 yards on 46 carries (4.7 average) and a touchdown this season and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry in the past four games.
“I’ve got a guy like Trent Richardson that’s in there before me, and he’s wearing out defenses,” Hardesty said. “He’s wearing on defenses, and when I come in, they have to adjust. Sometimes I go for the cutbacks more and do different things. So I feel like having Trent before me kind of opens things up, and it’s my role to come in and make plays like that for our offense right now so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Although Richardson has proved to be a scoring machine — he has nine rushing touchdowns and one receiving — he is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Childress said the Browns aren’t at all on the verge of giving Hardesty more carries than Richardson.
“It’s nice to have two different kinds of backs because the defense kind of sets its cleats in the ground for one style run,” Childress said. “Then somebody else comes in, and all of a sudden it’s a little different style running. Montario’s been able to have some explosive plays and give us production, not ridiculous production, but enough production where you’re not afraid to say, ‘Give him the next series.’ ”
Hardesty fumbled and recovered it at the goal line early in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs but thought he scored a touchdown.
“All I know is I saw bean bags and saw a ball out,” Childress said. “It scared me.”
Shurmur then thrust Richardson into action, and he rushed for a 1-yard touchdown on the next play. After the game, Shurmur lamented his choice and insisted he trusts Hardesty.
“It’s great to have coaches that are going to stand up for you,” Hardesty said. “Earning back the trust of my teammates and coaches is a big thing as well.”
Hardesty is hoping to receive more opportunities against the Redskins. He refuses to feel sorry for himself because of the injuries he endured in his first two seasons. He simply hopes to prove what he’s capable of achieving now.
“That taught me how to go through some adversity, and I feel like getting through it, nothing can stop you,” Hardesty said. “When you go through some adversity, everything else just comes along easily. There’s always going to be hard times when you’re trying to accomplish something. I feel like it’s something I had to go through, and I’m tougher because of it.”
In hindsight, Shurmur reiterated one of the things he would have done differently last year was hire an offensive coordinator. He hired Childress this year.
“I talked with Pat and he wasn’t ready to hire an offensive coordinator,” Childress said. “I think he was going to do it himself. What went on with me was I gained about 30 pounds and drank a lot of flowery drinks with straws in them and wore a big hat.”
Shurmur revealed he pursued Dick Jauron as his defensive coordinator right away.
“When I got this job, the first phone call I made was to Philadelphia to see if Dick was available because I knew he was coaching on the staff,” Shurmur said. “I asked [Eagles coach] Andy [Reid] and when that became the case, then I was fortunately able to hire him.”
Of course, Childress and Jauron are former head coaches. Childress expressed interest in returning to that role.
“If the timing is right, if the people are right, that’d be great,” Childress said. “If not, I can say that I’ve been there, done that.”
Nickel cornerback Dimitri Patterson played Sunday for the first time since suffering a left high ankle sprain and torn ligament Oct. 7. Jauron was pleased with Patterson’s performance, but Patterson was a little harder on himself.
“I thought it wasn’t bad,” Patterson said. “Obviously there are a couple things I’m a little rusty on, but for the most part it was OK.”
This weekend, Patterson will need to be in top form as he covers Redskins slot receiver Santana Moss, who’s in his 11th NFL season. Moss, 33, has 32 catches and leads the team in receiving yards (468) and touchdowns (seven).
“He’s made some big plays,” Patterson said. “Obviously in his prime, he was an explosive threat who demanded a double team. But he can still make big, explosive plays down the field, and he’s been very productive for them this year. It’s going to be a good challenge.”
The Browns signed defensive end Kendrick Adams to their practice squad. He has spent time on the practice squads of the Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. … All 53 players on the Browns’ active roster practiced Thursday. Wide receiver Josh Cribbs (knee), defensive end Juqua Parker (knee) and left tackle Joe Thomas (back) were limited. … Fletcher (ankle), quarterback Robert Griffin III (knee) and offensive tackle Trent Williams (thigh) were limited for the Redskins.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.