By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: The Browns swapped draft picks with the Miami Dolphins in April as part of a trade that brought wide receiver Davone Bess to Cleveland. Then they signed Bess to a three-year contract extension because they believed he would be a reliable, go-to playmaker on third down.
But Bess has had a disappointing season marred by dropped passes. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Bess, New England Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson are tied for the NFL lead with seven drops apiece. According to STATS LLC, Bess is tied for seventh in the league with five drops.
So how does he think his season is going?
“Not as planned,” Bess said Friday after practice. “But the good thing about this league is getting on to the next week and putting what happened behind you and looking forward.”
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Bess will get his next shot at redemption Sunday when the Browns (3-4) visit the Kansas City Chiefs (7-0). Quarterback Jason Campbell will start in place of Brandon Weeden, who was benched this week after struggling in back-to-back losses. The Browns will use their third starting quarterback in eight games, though Bess isn’t blaming the carousel for his woes.
“That’s the scapegoat, so to speak,” said Bess, who has tallied 25 catches for 234 yards this season. “That’s the easy way to see that’s why I’m dropping balls. But that’s not the case at all. [It’s] just a lack of concentration on my behalf. I know I’m better than that, and I’m going to fix it.”
Bess, 28, has never had fewer than 50 catches in a season since he entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2008. In the past five years, he accounted for 130 third-down receptions, second most in the NFL during that span.
As a team, the Browns are tied for fourth in the league with 20 drops, according to STATS LLC. They’re also 25th in third-down conversion percentage (35.1). In other words, they need Bess to get his act together.
“Experience helps with that,” Bess said. “It’s happened before. I’m sure that won’t be the last time it happens. That’s the nature of this game. It’s about bouncing back. It’s about making the most of your next opportunity.”
Mitchell Schwartz is the starting right offensive tackle for the Browns, and his older brother, Geoff, is a backup for the Chiefs at the same position.
Their parents, Lee Schwartz and Olivia Goodkin, will attend the game. Mitchell said his mother plans to wear a split jersey, half Browns and half Chiefs.
Geoff, 27, has been a major influence on Mitchell, 24. They have never played a game at any level on opposing teams. Mitchell was sitting out his freshman year as a redshirt at the University of California when it faced Geoff, a senior at the time, and the University of Oregon.
“He’s always had a lot more football knowledge than I have, so I’ve been able to kind of use that, especially in college when I knew a lot less than I do now, helping out with that kind of stuff,” Mitchell said. “So we talk about everything whether it’s football or regular stuff.”
The brothers text and talk on the phone regularly, but they rarely see each other in person during the season.
“You’re on different schedules,” Mitchell said. “You have different bye weeks. It’ll be cool to see each other, spend time together.
Mitchell said they plan to go out to dinner today.
“It’s his city, so he’s picking the place,” Mitchell said.
Feel the noise
The Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at an outdoor sports stadium was set Oct. 13 at Arrowhead Stadium when Chiefs fans generated a decibel reading of 137.5 in a 24-7 win over the Oakland Raiders.
“It’s daunting to hear ‘the loudest in the league’ ’cause all the other places we’ve played have been pretty loud, too,” Browns center Alex Mack said. “It’ll be a challenge. It’s always a challenge in away games. It’s being stressed this week in practice, and we do what we can.”
Loud venues can create headaches for visiting offenses. Penalties are common for false starts and delays of game.
The Browns used a silent snap count Sept. 22 throughout their 31-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the ultra-loud Metrodome. Mack said the offense uses “a very secret silent-snap procedure” that he won’t share.
“Communication with all the linemen is just more difficult in terms of snap count and hearing that kind of stuff and communicating down the line and making sure everyone’s on the same page,” Mack said. “That’s why it’s nice to play at home ’cause all that stuff is a lot easier.”
The Browns’ interior offensive linemen are bracing for an encounter with Chiefs standout nose tackle Dontari Poe. The 11th overall pick in last year’s draft, Poe has 25 tackles, including five for loss and 4½ of the Chiefs’ NFL-leading 35 sacks. He often draws double teams because he wreaks so much havoc.
“He’s really come into his own,” Browns right guard Shawn Lauvao said. “He’s really athletic, strong, fast, all the good things in a good defensive lineman. He does a good job in terms of freeing other guys up. He kind of reminds me of [Baltimore Ravens four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle] Haloti [Ngata]. We’ve got our work cut out this week for sure.”
The Browns listed backup outside linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle) as doubtful and backup defensive end Billy Winn (strained quadriceps) as questionable.
Winn practiced all week on a limited basis and hopes to play for the first time since Sept. 22.
“I’m so excited,” Winn said. “It’s been a long time, and I miss it. I’ve been bored just sitting there and watching all the guys have all this fun. Not being able to be out there, it kills me.
“You don’t want to force it and go out there too early and have a setback. But I do feel like I’m ready. It’s going to be a decision that we’ll have to wait and listen for.”
Starting running back Willis McGahee (knee) practiced Friday after resting Thursday. He’s one of six Browns players listed as probable.
The Chiefs listed two starters as questionable: wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (groin) and free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle). Bowe did not practice Friday, and Lewis was limited.
Fine or no fine?
Browns linebacker Eric Martin was fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness in the third quarter Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. He struck an opponent late during a special-teams play.
Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson was not fined for his hit on Packers tight end Jermichael Finley in the fourth quarter that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty. Finley suffered a bruised spinal cord during the play.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.