Browns’ defense puts Weeden, McCoy to the test
BEREA (AP) — Browns defenders are playing no favorites in Cleveland’s quarterback competition.
They’ll gladly pick off passes from any of them.
Rookie Brandon Weeden and incumbent Colt McCoy both threw ugly interceptions Sunday as coach Pat Shurmur presented a daunting task: See what you can do in a 7-on-7 drill in third-and-long sets, pitted against a Browns’ pass defense ranked second in the NFL a year ago.
Veteran defensive back Sheldon Brown had no pity on the passers.
“We’re going for the football no matter who you are,” he said. “That’s one of our goals this year. Stop a team, take the ball from them and give our offense good field position.”
Shurmur had a good idea who was going to win the stacked-deck test and wasn’t too critical of his passers.
“These are challengeable throws,” he said. “It’s tight (coverage). You saw them seeing what they can get away with. You can’t just look at raw plays; you take that (into account).”
Shurmur enjoyed seeing the defense swell with pride after each big play, though.
“My favorite day of the year, other than game day of course, is the first day of pads, and I wasn’t disappointed,” he said. “I thought there was good banging out there.”
Weeden enjoyed the challenge, yet acknowledged forcing some throws that in a game he would have dumped off to running back Trent Richardson instead of going for broke.
“I made some mistakes I usually don’t make,” Weeden said. “That comes from getting used to the guys. Like coach said … you know something is wrong when you make the same mistake more than once.”
Weeden thought a good throw got picked by second-year safety Eric Hagg, battling for a starting spot.
“Hagg made a great play,” he said. “It really was the right read, he just made a heck of a play. But what can you do? You move on to the next play.”
Shurmur praised Hagg for out-battling veteran Mohamed Massaquoi on the play down the left side.
“He has impressed us,” Shurmur said. “As a safety, you have got to support the run, play whichever side of the field is your assignment, or play the middle of the field.
“He communicates well. For all those reasons, he’s caught our eye.”
Hagg wasn’t sure he did all that on the interception.
“I just reacted,” he said. “I just saw something and went after it. That’s what we, as a unit, want to do more.”
Despite their success against the pass a year ago, the Browns had just nine interceptions and were one of only five teams not to reach double figures. They were 30th against the run, contributing mightily to their 4-12 record.
“The first thing that is most obvious (to improve) is to stop the run,” linebacker Scott Fujita said. “The best way to win games is to create turnovers.”
Fujita probably won’t play the first three games unless he wins an appeal to overturn a league-ordered suspension from the bounty scandal when he was with the New Orleans Saints. Defensive lineman Phil Taylor, the Browns’ No. 1 pick in 2011, will miss the first half of the season with a torn biceps.
Shurmur is working to fill the void.
“I thought our young defensive tackles battled in there pretty well,” he said. “I’ve got a couple young linebackers that caught my eye, so that was good.”
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said it is time Cleveland’s defense mimics the in-your-face swagger of AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
“Nobody pays attention to us,” Jackson said. “OK, fine. We’re going to play with a chip on our shoulders. That’s the attitude we have. Not to prove ourselves to anybody, but to win.
“I’ve been here and saw us get kicked around. I didn’t like it. We’re a better team. Now it’s our time to go show it.”
NOTES: RB Trent Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick, said he loved the first day of hard hitting. “If you don’t love contact, you’re in the wrong sport,” the former Alabama star said. “It felt good.” … Shurmur said WR Josh Cribbs’ role has not changed. “He’s a special teams player that plays receiver,” Shurmur said after Cribbs didn’t get many looks in passing downs. … The announced crowd of 4,200 was the largest since the team began recording practice attendance in 2005. The previous best was 3,673 in the first session of 2010.