BEREA: The Browns didn’t go after rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne in this year’s NFL Draft, but they will Sunday when they visit the Dallas Cowboys.
Claiborne, the sixth overall pick, committed five penalties Sunday in the Cowboys’ 38-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. He was called for being offside twice, holding twice and pass interference once.
After Claiborne’s rough outing, offensive coordinator Brad Childress won’t avoid him as if he’s hall of fame cornerback Deion Sanders. Instead, the Browns will test him.
“I think you have to challenge him,” Childress said Thursday. “You’ve got to continue to go at him and see if he can clean it up. He does have tremendous abilities and skills and big-play possibility, but I wouldn’t invoke the Deion rule.”
Rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon took note of Claiborne’s struggles.
“It’s definitely on my mind,” Gordon said. “You take that into account. That number of penalties by one guy in one game is definitely something to look at on film — how to really attack him, how to get him involved into the game emotionally to really get inside his head to see what makes him tick and possibly push one of his buttons to get one of those flags thrown.”
Gordon said he won’t hesitate to get physical with Claiborne.
“If a guy plays that way, I’ll definitely go into his game and want to play that way as well ‘cause I feel as though with my size, it plays into my advantage if anything,” Gordon said. “If he does want to play that way, we can play that way. I think it’ll help.”
Claiborne is eager for redemption. He told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he wants the Browns to throw at him.
“I hope so,” said Claiborne, who has 32 tackles, six passes defensed and one interception this season. “I feel it’s a blessing for me. We got out of there with a win with all the things that were happening and next week guys are going to come out and I know they are going to say: ‘Just throw it over there — either we are going to catch it or get a penalty.’ I’ve got to make the best of the situation, seize the moment and go make a play.”
Although the Browns plan to attack Claiborne, they know he’s talented.
“He was one of the premier players in this year’s draft,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “We spent a lot of time evaluating him. We had him in [for a visit]. He was one of the guys we talked to quite a bit. He’s an outstanding player.”
Of course, the Browns chose to trade up from the fourth overall pick so they could nab running back Trent Richardson third overall on April 26. When he played for the University of Alabama, Richardson became well aware of Claiborne, who starred for rival Louisiana State University.
“He’s one of the most electrifying players out there,” Richardson said. “He can cover. He can catch the ball. He can run. He always has a nose for the ball. If it’s in the air, he thinks it’s his no matter what.”
Although Childress and Shurmur will continue to collaborate when calling the offense’s plays, they’re confident the issues that led to three burned timeouts Nov. 4 in the Browns’ 25-15 loss to the Baltimore Ravens were resolved during the bye.
“It goes through a lot of staff discussions, which we had plenty in our week off,” Childress said. “I just think we had communication issues, whether it is indecision or whether I wasn’t speaking clearly or Pat wasn’t speaking clearly, or we were caught on the last play, which you can do sometimes. Sometimes you’re irritated about what happened on the last play or what happened officiating-wise. We just talked about the tempo it’s got to get in, at what point it’s got to get in and how we’re going about doing that, who is talking on the line and when they’re talking on the line.”
Childress doesn’t believe collaborating is the problem. He and coach Andy Reid used a similar method to call plays for the Eagles.
“I don’t feel like [the communication problems have] been an ongoing thing,” Childress said. “I think it reared its ugly head here recently. Hopefully we don’t have to go through that again.”
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden seems to think the Browns will no longer have trouble getting plays in on time.
“In practice it’s been smooth,” Weeden said. “Plays are getting in great and me and Pat have talked about our communication. When I’m in the huddle, he can tell by my body language if I’ve got the play, and if I step in the huddle, we’re ready to rock and roll.”
Shurmur is pleased with the job John Greco has done in the past three games as the starting left guard. Greco has filled in for Jason Pinkston, who is out for the season as he recovers from a blood clot in his lung.
“I think he’s done a good job,” Shurmur said of Greco. “I don’t see a real drop-off from him being in there, obviously replacing Pinkston.”
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas is impressed.
“It’s always hard to come in, in the middle of the year and take over for a starter that goes down, but I think he’s done a really good job coming in,” Thomas said. “He was our most readied backup. He’s got the most experience, and he’s actually one of the older guys on the O-line. It has been a pretty seamless transition.”
Greco said that was his goal.
“You don’t want to be the reason that the team’s not having success,” Greco said. “So if there’s no drop-off, then I’m doing my job.”
Quarterback of future?
Childress isn’t ready to follow the lead of outgoing team president Mike Holmgren and declare Weeden the Browns’ quarterback of the future.
“I want to see him grow here in the second half of the season, in the last seven games, and play through this Cleveland-Pittsburgh weather,” Childress said. “I want to see all of that. I want to see the whole body of work before I venture an opinion of where he’s at.
“He’s our starter and he’s given a pretty good representation of himself here. Can he improve? He’d be the first to tell you that, yeah. I think he’s doing OK for a first-year signal-caller in this league.”
First trip to stadium
The Browns will play at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the first time Sunday. One of the largest high-definition screens in the world hangs over the field at the venue, which opened in 2009.
“Just wait till you see this thing,” said Weeden, who was in the stadium when Oklahoma State played there. “It’s unbelievable. I joke, but I’m serious. If you’re sitting in the 200s, right in the middle of the stadium, there’s no way you can watch the game. This thing just takes up too much space. It’s huge. It’s overwhelming. If you’re sitting in the stands, you can’t help but look at it.”
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor played in the stadium while he was at Baylor, but he wasn’t as impressed by the massive screen.
“It’s big, but it’s just like a Jumbotron,” Taylor said. “You see one, you’ve seen them all. It’s big, but I don’t care.”
Gordon said the NFL fined him $20,000 for his blindside block on Ravens free safety Ed Reed. “I’ve got to play full speed every time,” said Gordon, who’s appealing the fine. “Stuff like that will happen in a game. You got to be careful and engage the defenders a little bit better. But I really can’t change my style of play.” … On Friday, kicker Phil Dawson was inducted into the University of Texas Men’s Athletics Hall of Honor. … Shurmur said he thinks rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn could be a good defensive end. “I think there’s potential for him to be a good player out there because he’s a good athlete,” Shurmur said. … Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) did not practice Thursday. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf) and special teamer Ray Ventrone (hand/calf) were limited.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.