Berea Report: Harrison's Turn

The Browns running back impressed Sunday, and looks to get more chances as the season winds up. Plus, Joe Thomas is honored and the "big game" nears.

BEREA—It's been said many times that one man's misfortune is another's opportunity.

With Jamal Lewis going on injured reserve, it appears to have opened the door to allow Jerome Harrison the chance to see if he can be a featured back.

Harrison is second on the team in rushing with 292 yards on 81 carries for a 3.6 yard per carry average. He is also tied with Mohamed Massaquoi as the team's leading receiver with 28 for 178 yards, including two touchdowns.

Harrison has already exceeded his most attempts since he's been with the Browns with 81 and four games left. After being drafted in 2006, Harrison had 20 carries his rookie year, 23 attempts in 2007 and 34 in 2008. Coming into this season in his limited duty, Harrison had averaged 5.8 yards per carry in his first three seasons.

He had also caught 23 passes for 182 with a 7.9 yard per catch average coming into this season.

Harrison doesn't say a whole lot about his opportunity, but hopes he can break the drought of no running backs having scored a rushing touchdown this season.

In fact, Harrison's 72-yard run against the Bills last November was the last rushing touchdown by a running back for the Browns.

"All of the running backs are just trying to take advantage of our opportunities when we go out there," Harrison said.

He's been the third down back on and off during his short NFL career, but has been criticized for his lack of blocking. Being a smaller back - listed at 5-9 — it poses a challenge for Harrison, not only in blocking, but in durability.

"Picking up the blitz, blocking consistently is something that he does and he's continuing to work on," Eric Mangini said. "Very rarely is he going to be facing a guy that he's substantially bigger than. There might be a stalemate every now and then, but usually he's going to fight size a little bit. You have a player with that much leverage, hand placement, things like that."

Earlier this season, Harrison was asked by a reporter a question and he said he didn't want to say what he was thinking about his lack of playing time.

Mangini wouldn't say if Harrison could be a featured back, but said he's shown some signs of it.

"He's done a lot of different things that you'd look for from a feature back, whether it be catching the football out of the backfield, you saw him on the, what we call it a ram pass, were he kind of bent up the seam coming out of the backfield," he said. "He's caught screens and check downs and different routes like that.

"You see him run the football," he said. "He's been able to run it effectively inside. He gained over 100 yards against Cincinnati. He's done some good things on the edge. I've had a back that has some similarities, with Leon Washington, and I think Leon has a chance to be an outstanding feature back."

Thomas Honored: OL Joe Thomas was named to the first USA Football/NFLPA "All-Fundamentals" Team. The 26-man roster honors the NFL's most fundamentally sound players who also commit themselves to service in their communities.

"It's a great honor," Thomas said. "To be looked at and recognized for your fundamentals means a lot to me."

Thomas was given a silver football helmet on a plaque.

The honor recognizes Thomas as an example for youth players to emulate due to his exemplary pass blocking footwork.

"I think most really good players have great fundamentals," Mangini said. "I think he plays with a really good base and his hand placement is excellent to deliver the maximum blow to the opponent."

Other notable players selected were: QB Drew Brees, WR Larry Fitzgerald, TE Tony Gonzalez, WR Wes Welker, RB Ryan Grant, DE Osi Umenyiora and DB Troy Polamalu. The Broncos' Ryan Clady was the only other offensive tackle and Clady was noted for "hands in pass protection."

Big Game: Mangini said that he has looked forward to playing the Steelers at home since he was named the head coach.

"I remember the Pittsburgh games back when I was here the first time," Mangini said. "It's an exciting game to be a part of."

"During the course of the week, you feel it," he said. "It's something that might not have been spoken about, but you felt it."

Mangini thinks the fact the Steelers have lost four in a row makes them even more dangerous.

"They have lost some really close games and they are very resilient."

WR/KR Josh Cribbs has said if the Browns beat the Steelers, the 1-11 season would be ‘forgiven.' Mangini said that's not the case.

"Not really," he said. "I'm looking to try and beat Pittsburgh and it's a special game because who it is, but we're trying to move forward with what we're trying to do here."

QB Brady Quinn will face the Steelers for the first time in his career as the starter and he's looking forward to it.

"It's a big rivalry and growing up in Ohio, it's special the first time."

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