Beating the Saints, 30-17, in their final game before the bye has given players in the Browns locker room hope they might have turned a corner. Waiting for them around that corner are the New England Patriots.
Questions must be answered before the season resumes Nov. 7, primarily, will quarterback Colt McCoy start again or will Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme recover from ankle injuries and be ready to play? Coach Eric Mangini can’t answer that yet.
Likewise, how will the next nine games affect Mangini’s future as Browns head coach? Mangini tells his players to concentrate on one game at a time.
“You become a hypocrite if you ask others to focus on the importance of today and then you're looking down the road,” Mangini said. “To me, all those things will work themselves out.”
Four of the Browns final nine opponents have won five games.
The Browns practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday and then headed on a four-day mini-vacation. The original plan was to start the short week with a light practice day on Monday, but Mangini gave his players the day off for beating the Saints.
“The coaches have gone back through the first seven games and analyzed what went well, what went poorly, what we can change or want to change, maybe some things to throw out, maybe some things to add on,” Mangini said. “Then we show the guys a tape, explain it to them, show them the adjustments, go walk through it, practice it, come back watch the tape and put that day in the bank.”
—The Browns are 2-5, one game better than they were after seven games a year ago. Beating the Saints prompted questions about whether the Browns might still have playoff hopes.
I really believe anything is possible,“ coach Eric Mangini said. "But the most important thing from our perspective is never make your focus on what’s nine weeks down the road.
“The only thing we can affect is right now and the next game. We can’t get nine weeks down the road right now, but we can get to the next game. Win that one, then deal with the next game and win that one. That’s the approach that works.”
Since 1990, three 2-5 teams then turned their seasons around and made the playoffs. The 1990 Saints were 2-5 and finished 8-8 to qualify as a wild-card team. In 1995 the 2-5 Lions finished 10-6 and were a wild-card team. In 2002 the Jets were 2-5 and ended up winning the AFC East at 9-7.
—When the Browns traded with the Jets in the first round of the 2009 draft they ended up with the 21st pick in the first round and three additional picks plus Jets veterans Kenyon Coleman, Abe Elam and Brett Ratliff. Coleman and Elam are starters. Alex Mack, the player chosen with the 21st pick, has started every game at center.
But the Browns have nothing to show for the three additional picks after waiving running back James Davis on Tuesday. Davis, a sixth-round pick from Clemson last year, carried four times for nine yards this season. He had nine carries for 15 yards last year. Linebacker David Veikune, chosen with a second-round pick acquired from the Jets, was cut in training camp. He did not make a tackle last year. Cornerback Coye Francies, another sixth-round pick, was cut in training camp. He made two tackles in six games last season.
—Quarterbacks Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy have completed 128 passes in seven games. That puts them well ahead of the pace set last season by Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, who completed 217 passes all season. At their current pace the Browns will complete 293 passes this season.
—Colt McCoy’s “12” jersey will be retired by the Texas Longhorns on Saturday. The ceremony coincides with the Browns' bye so McCoy could attend.
“It means a lot, especially that they did it so quickly,” McCoy said. “But my main focus now is in Cleveland and what I have to do to be the best quarterback I can be here.
“Going home this weekend I am excited and happy. It’s a huge honor for me and my family, for my coaches and my teammates I played with for four years. I certainly couldn’t have done it without all their support. That’s a big honor and I'm grateful for it.”
BY THE NUMBERS: 38 — The Browns have been outscored by 38 points in the fourth quarter — 62-24.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I'm not wired to think that way. You become a hypocrite if you ask others to focus on the importance of today and then you're looking down the road. To me, all those things will work themselves out.” — Coach Eric Mangini when asked whether he thinks about keeping his job for 2011.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Browns waived second-year running back James Davis and claimed running back Thomas Clayton off waivers from the Patriots.
Coach Eric Mangini said he thought about elevating Clayton to the active roster from the practice squad, but before he did, the Patriots signed Clayton to their active roster on Sept. 30. He was inactive for two games and waived on Oct. 23.
“He’s another really good-sized physical back, a strong runner so I liked those things about him,” Mangini said. “He fits in with the things that we're trying to do. That’s in no way a knock on James. It’s just more of a compliment to Thomas and what we hope he can do here for us. It’s going to be important for him while he’s here to carve out that role on special teams, continue to build a role on offense and we'll see where that goes.”
Clayton was a sixth-round draft choice of the 49ers out of Kansas State in 2007. He has not played in a regular season game.
—QB Seneca Wallace is out of his walking boot. He is rehabbing with the goal of being ready to play against the Patriots.
—The coaches want KR Josh Cribbs to run through tacklers as he did in the past rather than trying to run around them.
— New RB Thomas Clayton is working on the kick return team replacing RB James Davis, who was released last week.
—WR Mohamed Massaquoi is showing no after-effects from the concussion that prevented him from playing against the Saints.
—Rookie OG Shawn Lauvao seemed a lock to start at right guard in training camp, but he sprained an ankle four days before the season started. Floyd Womack beat him out, and now with Womack at right tackle, Billy Yates is ahead of Lauvao at guard.
INJURY IMPACT: Coach Eric Mangini said tackle John St. Clair (ankle) might be ready to practice when the Browns return from their bye. If not, Floyd Womack will continue as the right tackle and Billy Yates as the right guard.