BEREA - If you were looking for the Cleveland Browns' Monday afternoon scrimmage to add to your excitement and reason to hope for the 2002 season, you may have found it. Then again, maybe you didn't.
Butch Davis called it the typical "double-edged sword" of an intra-squad scrimmage.
Most of the 3,783 fans who watched the 75-play scrimmage either came away encouraged that the Browns had improved their defense against the run, or the worried that the Browns rushing attack would be just as feeble as it has been the last three seasons.
The first-team offense did little to move the ball in three series against the No. 1 defense. With incumbent starter James Jackson and first-round pick William Green sharing the rushing duties, the Browns first-team offense gained 17 yards on six carries - an average of 2.83 yards per attempt.
In total, the No. 1 offense gained 25 yards, one first down and turned the ball over once in 12 plays spanning three series.
As is the case every year, the coach attributed the offense's struggles to the fact that defenses always are far ahead at this stage of training camp.
"You didn't ever want to admit it when you were a defensive coordinator, but in fact it is true," said Davis. "It's because the defense can have three guys and they can totally (mess up), they can run behind blocks and somebody can bust a coverage, and all it takes is for Gerard Warren to get great penetration, hit the back in the backfield and its a 2-yard loss.
"On the offensive side of the ball, 10 guys can be absolutely perfect and one guy can make a false step and the play is a bad play. It just takes so much more time for the offense to gel and get into a rhythm."
There were some offensive highlights. Jamel White exploded off left tackle for a 22-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage for the second-team offense. White also used a couple of jukes in the open field to turn an 8-yard catch on 3rd-and-10 into a first down and a 22-yard gain.
"That kid is fighting to earn a spot and earn a significant piece of playing time," said Davis. "I think a lot of athletes are motivated by the fact that people underestimate their abilities, and he doesn't come from a high-profile Division I program. He wasn't a highly recruited guy. He wasn't (drafted). He probably does have a chip on his shoulder, and I'll tell you what, all that guy does is make plays for this football team."
White came to Cleveland weighing 208-pounds. He is now pushing 220, and that's without losing any of his breakaway speed. When he last maxed out on the bench, he pressed 400-pounds. That all comes from his desire to work in the weight room all winter long with the hope it would him make more plays for the Browns. The more big plays he delivers, the more the Browns will find time for him on the field.
"The one thing I know about coaches, they play the guys who will help them win," said Davis. "I don't care how much money they are making. I'll cut somebody making $4-million just as easily as I will cut someone who is making $200,000. If the difference is that guy will help us win, that's the guy who will make this team."
The man making big money at running back is Green, who ended a five-day holdout Saturday by signing a seven-year, $7.8-million contract with a $5.7-million cash bonus. Green was on the field for 13 plays. He carried the ball seven times for 16 yards. He ran hard, but also dropped a swing pass from Tim Couch that would have gone for a first down, then fumbled a handoff from Kelly Holcomb.
"I think he's rusty," said Davis. "He certainly hasn't had the benefit of being through eight or nine practices. If he was in here from the beginning of training camp with the rookies, he would have probably been in for an addition eight or 10 more plays, but he is behind. There are a lot of things he has to learn, and more importantly get used to the timing on the handoffs, the protections and those kinds of things."
Recent free-agent pickup Autry Denson scored the game's only touchdown - a 9-yard run on the scrimmage's final play. Denson was a pleasant surprise, rushing for 58 yards on 12 carries.
"We didn't bring Autry as an emergency thing, thinking he was just a throw in," said Davis. "He has very good value on special teams. He's returned kicks, and he's an outstanding back out of the backfield. He's a guy who could have a serious opportunity as a third-down back."
Defensive backs Dyshod Carter and Kalvin Pearson were among the day's defensive stars. Carter grabbed a deflected pass for the scrimmage's only interception. Pearson continued to build his reputation as a hard-hitting rookie corner, pounding Jamel White near the sideline at the tail end of a 1-yard gain.
Weakside linebacker Dwayne Rudd was quick to the ball on back-to-back stops of William Green on the scrimmage's second series. Defensive tackles Gerard Warren and Orpheus Roye managed to penetrate the starting offensive line for a pair of big plays. Warren dropped James Jackson for a 2-yard loss and Roye twice forcing hurried incompletions by Couch with pressure from the inside.
Led by Kelly Holcomb, the Browns second-team offense drove into field goal position midway through the full-squad scrimmage.
Aided by a southwestern wind, Phil Dawson nailed a 54-yard field goal to put the first points on the board in the scrimmage. If in game conditions, the 54-yard field goal would be the longest of Dawson's career.