By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns right guard Oniel Cousins refused to make excuses for his poor performance in the 23-10, season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins and vowed to improve.
“I’m going to learn from my mistakes, and you’re going to see a better game from me on Sunday,” said Cousins, one of the few players who spoke to the media Monday during the 45 minutes the locker room was open. “I’m just going to roll with it.”
Cousins started just his second NFL regular-season game at right guard Sunday, replacing Shawn Lauvao, who suffered a high-ankle sprain last month. Cousins, who has spent the vast majority of his career as a backup right tackle, was penalized four times — twice for holding, once for illegal hands to the face and another time for a false start. One of Cousins’ holding penalties wiped out tight end Gary Barnidge’s 20-yard touchdown catch with 1:47 left in the fourth quarter.
“No excuses,” Cousins said. “I think it’s a great opportunity. I’m a physical guy. At the guard position, you’ve got to be physical, and I like it. I’m getting more comfortable every day. I just got to fix my technique, just tighten up a little bit of stuff, whether it’s moving my feet quicker, moving my hands faster.”
The Browns (0-1) need Cousins to rebound in a hurry because they’ll visit the Baltimore Ravens (0-1) on Sunday.
“His pass protection was OK,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “The penalties we have to eliminate. Oniel has worked and improved, and we need to have him continue to improve. I’m confident he’ll improve.”
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Cousins spent the first three seasons of his career with the Ravens after they drafted him in the third round in 2008. The Browns claimed him off waivers in 2011 after the Ravens cut him.
“I understand it’s a business,” Cousins said. “I am a Brown now. I used to be a Raven. But I’m playing for the Cleveland Browns. I’m not playing to prove nothing to [the Ravens]. I’m playing to have my team win.”
The Ravens fell 49-27 to the Denver Broncos in their opener, so they’ll definitely aim to work out some frustration on the Browns. Cousins is sure nose tackle Haloti Ngata and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will be fired up and ready to lead a defense that’s tough to handle.
“They’re great players,” Cousins said. “Those guys have been doing great things in the league for a long time. But we’re not rattled.
“They’ve got a great overall defense, and I believe we’ve got a good line, too. I’m confident in myself, I’m confident in our guys, and we’re just going to go out and do our best.”
The Browns are receiving rampant criticism for not involving starting running back Trent Richardson enough in their offense. Richardson had just 13 carries for 47 yards (3.6 average) to go along with two catches for 30 yards. He did not have a carry in the fourth quarter.
“Trent’s a critical part of our offense,” Chudzinski said. “We want to give him the ball as much as we can. I thought in the first half we had a pretty good mix going there even into the third quarter. We had a lot of two-minute situations [Sunday], one at the end of the half and obviously in the fourth quarter there. The key is we have to convert on third down, and we’ll get plenty more opportunities to get the ball as well.”
The Browns converted only 1-of-14 third downs.
“We call it SINS, self-inflicted negatives,” wide receiver Davone Bess said. “A lot of times when you’re backed against the wall, you need to be able to execute from assignment and alignment standpoint. If you don’t do that, you’re killing yourself before the play even starts.”
The Browns did try to use Richardson on a screen early in the fourth quarter on second-and-19 at their 39-yard line. He would’ve had a clear path, but quarterback Brandon Weeden failed to get a good pass off as he was hit by defensive end Cameron Wake.
“They had the perfect defense on for us to execute it,” Chudzinski said. “We just need to sink back, and if Brandon can just have a little bit more time to get a little better ball to Trent and give him a chance to catch it, we were off to the races.”
Chudzinski said outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung), defensive end Ahtyba Rubin (calf), strong safety T.J. Ward (shoulder) and Lauvao (ankle) are receiving treatment, and he’ll have more information about each of them Wednesday when the Browns resume practice. … Bobby Rainey brought four kickoffs out of the end zone and returned them for 103 yards (25.8 average), but he only crossed the 20-yard line once. “We were bringing the ball out,” Rainey said. “[It’s] just something I have to adjust to. I’ve got to do a better job of basically timing the kick.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.