BEREA, Ohio—The Browns are in a position that they haven’t been in recent history.
The offense is in the top ten in the NFL, averaging 383.2 yards a game.
More importantly, the Browns are averaging 26.8 points a game, which is tied for ninth in the league.
Those statistics have not gone unnoticed by Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, who is in his second season with Jacksonville.
“I think it all starts with the running game,” Bradley said in a conference call Wednesday with Cleveland media. “They do a really good job. You’re seeing teams, I know Pittsburgh at times, it looked like they had 10 guys in the box, nine guys in the box, especially in short yardage. It’s created a lot of awareness for teams playing the Browns that you’ve got to be able to handle the run.
“When a team can run the ball as effectively as they’re running the ball, the play action can be really disruptive. I know their explosive passes are way up there. Even though they don’t have as many passes as some teams, that ability to have a play action off the run is really tough on a defense. I think it’s a combination of those two things – the running game and the play passes that come off of it.”
Tate missed 2 ½ games with a sprained knee and West sat out last week’s game as a healthy scratch. The Browns have eight rushing touchdowns, with Crowell leading with four, followed by two apiece by Tate and West.
Bradley said that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has done a good job with the Browns offense.
“Again, the running game and then his play passes – those two things,” Bradley said. “I had a chance when he was at Houston and at Washington…he’s very good – a very good play caller. I think what he does really well is he kind of understands the defensive mindset – how important the run is and what reaction he can get out of a defense based on running the ball pretty well. I think he has a good feel (for that), and you can see that in his play calling. It’s always a challenge going against his offenses because of his understanding of that.”
McDonald Practices: OL Nick McDonald has been designated to return to practice from Reserve/NFI. He can practice and be activated to the 53-man roster at any time within a 21-day period. After 21 days, he must be activated or returned to Reserve/NFI and will not be eligible to return to the Browns active roster for the remainder of the 2014 season.
McDonald was on the field for his first practice Wednesday wearing a brace on his wrist. He wears No. 68.
McDonald (6-4, 306) played with the Patriots in 2011-12, starting three games and spent 2013 missing the season. He was released by the Patriots and signed by the Chargers in July before being released and signed by the Browns to the reserve/non-football injury list.
It is expected that McDonald wouldn’t be activated for this week’s game, but that John Greco would play center, at least this week.
“It’s pretty much the mindset of next man up with losing Alex,” Pettine said. “Whether it’s John sliding over and Paul stepping in or Vinston Painter. We now have Nick McDonald available to practice and we’re not sure how it will all shake out.”
McDonald was originally an undrafted rookie free agent from Grand Valley State.
Gipson Out; Rubin Back: The Browns issued a lengthy list of players that would be limited at practice including: DB Tashaun Gipson (thigh), LB Paul Kruger (back), OL Alex Mack (leg), DL Ahtyba Rubin (ankle), WR Rodney Smith (hamstring), DL Phil Taylor (knee), OL Joe Thomas (rest), DB K’Waun Williams (concussion) and DL Billy Winn (quad).
Gipson, Winn and Smith were on the stationary bikes during the beginning of practice, while Rubin, Kruger and DB Joe Haden (hip) were all practicing.
Williams, Taylor and Mack were not on the field.
Pettine mentioned that he is optimistic Rubin will be able to play this week.
“We’re hopeful to get Rubin back.”
Pettine said that if Rubin comes back, Fua might still be active this week.
“We are anticipating getting ‘Rube’ back,” he said. “I don’t’ know if we’ll have four or five (defensive linemen).
“We’ll make that decision at the end of the week,” he said. “He had a good workout, was in shape and he’s smart. We liked the film we watched on him. We’re hoping he can be productive for us and be a contributor as the year goes along.”
Fua (6-2, 310) is in his in his fourth NFL season out of Stanford. Originally a third round draft pick by Carolina in 2011, Fua has appeared in 29 games with 12 starts. He has registered 33 tackles and one forced fumble. He appeared in 27 games with the Panthers from 2011-13 and two games with the Broncos last season. Fua was waived by the Broncos during final roster cuts this season.
He appeared in 50 games at Stanford and totaled 80 tackles, nine sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He is wearing No. 70 for the Browns.
Bryant to IR: Bryant sustained damage to knee ligaments in the first quarter against Pittsburgh that will require surgical repair. His surgery will be scheduled for later this month. He appeared in five games with two starts and recorded 11 tackles and one sack.
Cone Signed: The Browns signed WR Kevin Cone to the practice squad.
Cone (6-3, 216) in his third NFL season out of Georgia Tech. Cone originally signed with Atlanta as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and has appeared in 29 games. He has one reception for 12 yards and 10 special-teams tackles. He spent 2011-13 with the Falcons and has spent time on the Cardinals and Buccaneers practice squads this year.
The Browns also released WR Lee Doss from the practice squad.
No Distraction: Pettine was asked if the contract talks surrounding QB Brian Hoyer could be a distraction on the team’s focus for this week’s game.
“It can be, if we let it,” Pettine said. “We’re focused on the task at hand. Distractions come in all shapes and sizes.
“Brian will be the first one to tell you he’s focused on this game.”
Mack Surgery: Pettine said that C Alex Mack will have surgery to repair his fibula on Friday in North Carolina. Mack signed an offer sheet as a restricted free agent with the Jaguars that was matched by the Browns.