Receivers Making Strides

Browns wide outs are showing some progress early in the 2011 season.

BEREA — One of the big concerns entering the 2011 season was the Cleveland Browns' receiving corps. Through three games, the concerns are still there — at least with the fans.

As a group, Browns wide receivers have 24 receptions with two touchdowns. The Browns top two receivers are tight end Ben Watson and running back Peyton Hillis with 10 apiece. Hillis missed last week's game.

Without OTAs and minicamps in the offseason, quarterback Colt McCoy and the receivers tried to get their timing down at four voluntary camps.

"The best possible scenario is for them to be at all the minicamps and play the same spot," Pat Shurmur said. "The more they play together, the more comfortable they get."

Shurmur said all teams are dealing with the same circumstances.

"Everybody is dealing with that this year around the league," he said. "All 32 teams have been dealing with it.  There are no excuses."

Mohamed Massaquoi leads the Browns receivers with eight catches for 148 yards (18.5 yards per catch average). Greg Little is tied with Massaquoi with eight catches for 74 yards (9.3 avg.). Josh Cribbs has seven catches for 103 yards (14.7 avg.) and Jordan Norwood has one catch for six yards. Brian Robiskie and Carlton Mitchell have not caught a pass. Cribbs and Massaquoi scored the receiver's two touchdowns last week against Miami.

But there's hope.

In the Browns' game-winning drive, the receivers caught five passes for 50 yards, including Massaquoi's 14-yard game-winner. Little caught all three of his receptions for the game on the drive for 24 yards.

Shurmur said the plan is to get the receivers involved earlier.

"When you look at starting slowly, I think it's important we have a lot of guys we want to get the ball to early," he said. "We call plays to attack the coverage and according to the matchups.

"Sometimes, it works and sometimes, it doesn't. You try to spread the ball around."

Receivers need to become more acclimated to the West Coast offense. Yet the key for the wide receiving group is Little. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounds receiver out of North Carolina was drafted in the second round of last April.

"Greg's grown a lot in my eyes," Shurmur said. "I mentioned this before, but he's one of those guys that love Sunday. His eyes get real wide when the lights are on.

"He didn't play last year, but I see him making steady improvement. I see a guy eager on Sunday and making progress every week. I see him becoming a pro. He's a guy blessed with tremendous athletic ability. At this level, you have to do everything to be a pro and I think he's making progress."

Shurmur is used to dealing with developing new receivers. His receiving corps with the Rams in 2010 was decimated with injuries and he was constantly working with new receivers.

"We learned a lot last year," he said. "We had some players in St. Louis that were some good NFL players. We dealt with some injuries. I think it's a new set of scenarios when you have new guys."

Notebook

Cribbs to Return: Against the Dolphins, Cribbs is expected to resume his duties on kickoff returns and punt returns after being slowed by a groin injury.

"Josh is moving pretty well," Shurmur said. "He's a real pro and he'll practice. That probably means he will be back returning."

Cribbs played wide receiver and scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass, but was replaced on kickoffs by Buster Skrine and on punt returns by Jordan Norwood.

Cribbs is averaging 13.8 yards on punt returns with a long of 43 yards. On kickoffs, he is averaging 34.2 yards with a long of 52 yards.

Pashos A Go: Barring a setback, it appears right tackle Tony Pashos will make his 2011 debut against the Titans.

"Pashos was out there and took all the reps in (practice)," Shurmur said. "He's going to make a go of it."

Injury Update: All the players that were dinged in last Sunday's game were back at practice. DB Sheldon Brown (groin), LB Chris Gocoing (groin) and DL Phil Taylor (knee) practiced.  WR Josh Cribbs (groin) and RB Peyton Hillis (illness) was a full participant, as well. LB Titus Brown (ankle) and DB Eric Hagg (knee) were back at practice after being out since the preseason.

"A couple guys might be limited," Shurmur said. "Peyton Hillis looks good. He will be out there at practice."

The Browns practiced in shorts and helmets.

Brown Streak: Sheldon Brown has a streak of 147 regular season games. Entering Sunday, that streak is in jeopardy if he is unable to play because of the groin injury he suffered against the Dolphins.

If Brown cannot play, Dimitri Patterson or rookie Buster Skrine will most likely replace him. Shurmur said he is confident in either player.

"Absolutely," he said. "I feel good about that whole group. The whole secondary, whether it's Dimitri or Buster, I feel good about them."

Old Friends: Former Browns head coach Chris Palmer is the Titans' offensive coordinator. He was the Browns' coach for the first two seasons after the return to Cleveland in 1999 and 2000. DL Shaun Smith played for the Browns in 2007-08.

CJ2K: With Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt being lost for the season, the majority of the attention is turned on running back Chris Johnson. One of the premier backs in the NFL the past several seasons, Johnson has 98 yards on 46 attempts through three games after holding out all of training camp in a contract dispute.

The Browns know that Johnson can explode any time.

"Every situation is different, but I've seen that guy change games," Shurmur said. "I'm sure they are like any team. He looks like he's healthy and running well."

Johnson was the last NFL player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.


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