Delhomme may solve QB problem

Published 2:11 am Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BEREA — One drive: 11 plays, 80 yards in under six minutes.

That’s all it took for Jake Delhomme to convince many Cleveland fans that the Browns’ seemingly endless problems at quarterback are history.

Well, it’s way too early to proclaim the team’s QB problems over, but Delhomme’s brief but bright exhibition debut on Saturday night in Green Bay went a long way toward restoring the veteran’s image, and it helped further faith that president Mike Holmgren can revive the Browns.

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In his first — and only — series, Delhomme went 6 of 7 for 66 yards and moved the Browns to a quick touchdown against a highly regarded Packers defense. Cleveland rallied after blowing a 14-0 lead to win 27-24 on a last-second field goal, but Delhomme’s performance was both a personal victory and vindication for Holmgren, who raised some eyebrows when he signed the 35-year-old free agent as one of his first executive acts in March and discarded both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson.

“Jake did an excellent job on the first drive,” coach Eric Mangini said Monday. “We were able to do a lot of things against a team we weren’t able to do much against last year.”

Beginning with his first throw, a 17-yard completion to tight end Evan Moore, Delhomme was efficient, decisive and polished. With Delhomme in charge, Cleveland’s offense, ranked dead last statistically in the NFL last season, clicked like it rarely has in recent years.

It was an opening act to behold.

“It was great to see our offense march right down the field,” said kicker Phil Dawson, who made a 58-yard field goal and a 46-yarder in the final 1:27. “I can’t remember the last time I was kicking extra points like that. It was efficient, everyone knew what to do. There were no penalties. To execute like that was refreshing and hopefully we can keep it going.”

That’s what Seneca Wallace did. Replacing Delhomme following a turnover after Cleveland took a 7-0 lead, Wallace threw a TD pass to wide receiver Brian Robiskie and tossed another to tight end Benjamin Watson in the second quarter to help the Browns take a 21-14 halftime lead.

A year ago, the competition between Quinn and Anderson for the starting job dominated Mangini’s first camp with Cleveland and carried into the regular season. There’s no such drama this summer, and that in itself is reason to believe the Browns are going to be better in 2010.

It’s early, but Mangini is comforted by the newfound stability at quarterback.

“It has been great,” he said. “You can see that both of those guys go in, and it’s a little different package for each player, but they’re both efficient with the operation. Seneca makes some plays with his feet that cause problems. The throws were on time and guys had a chance for every ball. It was great to watch.”

Delhomme came to Cleveland with a down-to-earth reputation as both a good teammate and solid citizen. He has lived up to the advanced billing.

“We’re lucky to have him,” running back Jerome Harrison said after practice. “He is a professional, man, in how he carries himself, how he gives advice to the younger guys. He’s got some of the best advice you can get for running backs, quarterbacks, offensive linemen, doesn’t matter. Me and him talk all the time. During certain plays, I tell him what I see and he tells me what he sees.

“When I get the chance, I even go into the quarterbacks room just to hear his thoughts on things and see what he’s going to do. He’s a true veteran.”

Mangini also praised Delhomme and Wallace for staying into the game even when they were out of it.

“Jake comes out and he was as involved when he was on that first drive, he was that involved in the fourth quarter and the third quarter when he was helping out Colt (McCoy) and Ratty (Brett Ratliff) and Seneca was right there,” he said. “They wanted to help those guys out and they’re teaching while they’re not playing and that’s a great thing.”

Notes: Rookie QB McCoy missed practice with a minor thumb injury sustained against the Packers. Mangini said McCoy, who threw two interceptions in his pro debut, will miss a “day or two” but he expects the former Texas star to play in Saturday’s home exhibition against St. Louis. … WR Mohamed Massaquoi was kept out of practice with an injured hamstring. He should be back in a few days. … Rookie RB Montario Hardesty will not return this week from his knee injury. Hardesty has missed all of training camp after twisting his knee in workouts. … Former Browns safety Gary Baxter was a visitor to camp. He was forced to retire after sustaining two major knee injuries on one play in 2006.