Doug Johnson missed the entire week of practice before the Browns played the Lions in the second preseason game. Johnson said he had a "dead arm." Coach Romeo Crennel said Johnson was out with a sore shoulder.
The cause of the injury isn't as important as what resulted from it; while Johnson sat, rookie Charlie Frye, the third round pick from the University of Akron, closed ground in his bid to be the backup to Trent Dilfer.
The main reason Johnson was signed in June is because the coaches and General Manager Phil Savage thought Frye might not be ready, but Frye showed poise and field awareness in both preseason games. His touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards with one minute left against the Lions, on fourth-and-goal from the 7, was the play of the game in the Browns' 21-13 victory.
"He looked like a rookie at times, but as we have said all along he has some pocket presence. He was able to get out of trouble a few times and make some plays when there was nothing to be made."
Frye has been low-key the last two weeks. He was more excited about the way he played in an intra-squad scrimmage than about the way he played in either of the first two preseason games. And he is not talking about overtaking Johnson. Instead, he talks about how much he is learning from Trent Dilfer and about learning the offense.
"Every time I get more and more reps, the more comfortable I feel and the more I think the coaches feel comfortable in me," Frye said. "I just have one goal -- and that's to get better every day."
One of Frye's qualities that intrigues Crennel is the way Frye improvises. Frye's touchdown pass to Paul Irons in the first preseason game was one of those plays. Frye was supposed to go to the left, but no one was open so he rolled to his right and stayed away from the pass rush long enough for Irons to shake coverage and get open. The adlibbing made for an easy throw and catch. The touchdown pass to Edwards against the Lions was a more traditional fade route.
For four years while at Kent State, Joshua Cribbs saw Frye make similar plays for the Akron Zips, a rival of Kent's in the Mid-American Conference. Cribbs didn't like Frye then because Frye played for the enemy, but now he's glad to be in the same huddle with the 6-4, 217-pound rookie.
"Most of all he's a playmaker," Cribbs said. "He's not just a guy you put in there to run the offense. He can make things happen for this team."
Crennel says nothing has been finalized for the backup quarterback job. That
might not be determined until after the final preseason game because Dilfer and
the starters are likely to play most of the game in the third preseason game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Am I happy to get out of New York? Media wise, yeah. If you
have a bad game or a loss the buzzards will be around your locker like there's
some road kill there. Good game or bad game, if you don't face them they're
going to eat you alive. A lot of players found that out. It's tough to play in
New York when you don't have the media on your side." -- Ray Mickens, former
Jets cornerback after signing with the Browns.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Orlando Ruff moved up to second team defense and is putting more pressure on Ben Taylor to take his starting job. Ruff led the Browns with six tackles in the preseason opener against the Giants. He had a sack in that game and had two interceptions in practice last week. He followed that up with five tackles against the Lions.