BEREA: For the second consecutive year, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will return to Cleveland on a mission to beat his former team.
Daboll failed in his quest last season, so he might be even more likely to pull out all the stops Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs (2-10) visit the Browns (4-8).
Last year, Daboll was with the Miami Dolphins when they fell 17-16 in Week 3 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns believe Daboll, who served as their offensive coordinator from 2009-10 on former coach Eric Mangini’s staff, will be fired up to get another crack at them.
Daboll, though, is not letting on.
“I think in this business, you go from team to team, and each week you want to try to get a win no matter who it’s against,” Daboll said Friday. “That’s kind of how I’ve approached it regardless of if you’ve coached there, if you haven’t. You’re just trying to get a win.”
Still, the Browns are expecting Daboll to have something up his sleeve.
“When he was in Miami last year, he had some trick plays, some gadget plays,” middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “I remember being around him for a couple years. He had a lot of tools to say the least.
“You have to prepare for it. But if we’re [leading], it totally changes their game plan. It’s one of those deals where if it’s going to happen, it’ll happen early, and we’ve just got to be aware of it. I’ve been around him enough to know what type of gadget plays he has, but I’m sure he’ll have something in store for us Sunday.”
Daboll also knows the tendencies of some of the defenders.
“Daboll used to try to double-move me every day in practice with [former Browns receiver] Brian Robiskie,” cornerback Sheldon Brown said. “So, Daboll, if you’re thinking about that one, I’m going to play that one. On a serious note, we played Daboll last year against Miami. [Receiver Brian] Hartline had a couple catches [on me]. I had great coverage that day, but he came down with a couple good catches.”
Although receiver/returner Josh Cribbs doesn’t play defense, he’s confident Daboll’s trickery won’t work against the Browns. When he was with the Browns, Daboll employed Cribbs as a Wildcat quarterback, and he has been known to use Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster in a similar fashion.
“I’m sure he knows that we know about those plays,” Cribbs said. “If he does run them, this is a shout-out to him that we know about it. He’s got to play the straight and narrow. We play hard. This is Cleveland. A lot of teams don’t run too much trickery on us. It’s not the time and place for stuff like that.”
Receiver on rise
Coming off a stellar performance in the Browns’ 20-17 win over the Oakland Raiders, wide receiver Josh Gordon is ranked first among rookies in receiving yards (646) and receptions of 20 yards or longer (12). He is also tied for first with five touchdown catches.
“I think he’s starting to get a feel for what he can do, and the sky is the limit for that guy,” Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “The guy is talented. He’s tall. He’s long. He’s fast. He catches the ball well. He does all the things you would want.”
Gordon has come a long way since training camp, when he often appeared to be lackadaisical and lost after being selected July 12 in the second round of the supplemental draft.
“I was way behind everybody else on the learning curve, being in shape, being the last guy to get in shape, and it really hurt me,” Gordon said. “But at the same time, it motivated me to really strive to go out and show what I could really do.”
Gordon set career highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (116) and had a 44-yard touchdown catch against the Oakland Raiders. Still, he wants more.
“I never want to feel complacent or content in any aspect of the game,” Gordon said. “As soon as you do that, that’s when something will go wrong.”
No counter for comment
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas declined to fire back Friday when asked if he had a response to former teammate and Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis likening him to a “crazy ex-girlfriend” on Thursday.
“No, I don’t,” Thomas said. “I answered the questions I was asked on Wednesday and after that, I was totally focused on the [Chiefs’] defense.”
The war of words began on Wednesday, when Thomas criticized Hillis for creating a “toxic” situation and becoming a “terrible distraction” last year during his contract dispute with the Browns.
Thomas laughed when asked if he thought about asking his coaches to play defensive line, so he could get a chance to hit Hillis.
“No plans to play defense yet, but that could be a secret,” Thomas joked. “Don’t tell anybody.”
Dangerous pass rushers
The starting outside linebackers in the Chiefs’ 3-4 scheme, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, could present problems for the Browns. Houston has a team-high 10 sacks, and Hali is ranked second with six.
“Those guys kind of feed off each other,” Thomas said. “Houston’s kind of having his breakout season. He’s fast, quick. He uses great hands. You can definitely tell he’s been studying the things that Tamba likes to do because he’s got a nice array of pass-rush moves. He’s a tough guy to block, and you can’t focus on him. You can’t focus on Tamba because of the guys they have across that front.”
Houston and Hali occasionally swap positions. But most of the time, Thomas will block Hali, and rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz will be responsible for Houston.
Honored for comeback
Punter Reggie Hodges was chosen by his teammates as the 2012 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. He is the first punter in Browns history to win the award.
Every year, the honor is given to a member of each of the 32 NFL teams who exemplifies the qualities of former Baltimore Colts head athletic trainer Ed Block — courage, compassion, commitment and community service. In March, all 32 winners will be recognized at an event in Baltimore.
Hodges missed all of last season after rupturing the Achilles’ tendon in his left leg during training camp. He has played in every game this season.
“That was a bad injury last year,” kicker Phil Dawson said. “As tough as it is to come back from injuries physically, I think emotionally it’s even tougher. You get little twinges and pains doing what you do. Coming off an injury you always wonder, ‘Oh no, is it happening again?’ There’s a certain amount of mental toughness this requires. He’s come back, and I’m really proud of what he’s done this year.”
Said long snapper Christian Yount: “Coming back from an injury, there are tons of setbacks. Every day is a struggle. When you don’t have an injury, every day is kind of routine. It’s just amazing how he persevered through that injury.”
Return on horizon
Dimitri Patterson, the Browns’ top nickel cornerback, expects to play Sunday for the first time since he suffered a left high ankle sprain and torn ligament Oct. 7 against the New York Giants. He sat out the past seven games.
“It’s been two months,” said Patterson, who’s listed as probable for Sunday on the injury report. “I don’t want to use the word anxious because anxious doesn’t go well when you’re trying to be productive out there. But I am looking forward to it, to get back out there, put some good stuff on tape and get back to my old self.”
Patterson knows he must rely on mental toughness to minimize the effects of rust.
“Let’s be honest, two months is a long time in the game of football,” Patterson said. “When you’re coming back from an injury like that and a long layoff like that, it’s more mental than anything. It’s physical too because there’s a conditioning aspect there, but it’s going to be mental because of the game and how it is.”
The Browns listed the following players as probable: Cribbs (shoulder/chest), wide receiver Travis Benjamin (finger), tight end Jordan Cameron (groin), linebacker James-Michael Johnson (finger), offensive tackle Ryan Miller (forearm), running back Trent Richardson (chest/rib/finger), defensive end Frostee Rucker (shoulder/finger), special teamer Ray Ventrone (calf) and free safety Usama Young (concussion).
The Chiefs listed former Browns safety and Kent State product Abram Elam (quad) as doubtful. Offensive tackle Branden Albert (back), guards Jeff Allen (illness) and Russ Hochstein (back), safeties Eric Berry (hand) and Kendrick Lewis (shoulder), cornerback Brandon Flowers (hamstring) and linebacker Derrick Johnson (hamstring) are questionable. Hali (knee) and center Ryan Lilja (knee) are probable.
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