As the Cleveland Browns continue to prepare for Sunday’s home finale against the Washington Redskins, coach Pat Shurmur has seen an increased level of confidence from the players in practice and meetings.
The Browns enter Sunday’s game against the Redskins on a three-game winning streak. They have won four of the last five games at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and will host a Washington team that is riding a four-game streak of its own. The Browns have won two of their last three games by one score after losing five one-score contests in the first 10 weeks of the season.
“I think there’s some confidence that you develop when you find a way to finish games, and that helps you,” Shurmur said Thursday. “It only helps you, though, if you continue to go through the process and use that confidence to remember that there were plenty of mistakes in the game and we’re all striving to play a perfect game. We’ve got to keep working at it.
“I hope we continue to play better each week. As a coach, that’s what you want and I’m hopeful.”
When looking at the Browns in the three phases of the game, Shurmur has seen an increased level of production from the special teams’ coverage and return units.
In their first 13 games this season, the Browns have averaged 24.9 yards on 38 kickoff returns, with a long of 74 yards by
Individually, Cribbs has gained 885 yards on 32 kickoff returns and 424 yards on 33 punt returns.
In 2011, the Browns averaged 23.6 yards per kickoff return (1,134 yards on 48 returns) and 11.1 yards per punt return (423 yards on 38 runbacks). Cribbs gained 388 yards on punt returns and 974 on kickoff returns.
“I think the unit is a little bit symbolic of our whole team,” Shurmur said of the special teams. “It’s their second year in the system. I thought our guys worked extremely hard with them last year. We’ve added some new players to the coverage units that make it better.
“You’re getting outstanding consistency from
WORKING WITH THE ELEMENTS
Despite temperatures hovering around 32 degrees in Cleveland this week, the Browns have been able to practice outside, something Shurmur has embraced because going through sessions outside can be difficult at this time of year depending upon the weather.
“I’m glad the weather is reasonable for the middle of December,” Shurmur said. “To be able to go outside, it’s been good. I think it’s always best for the players to be outside, obviously, if the weather and temperatures permit.”
When the Browns welcome the Redskins to Cleveland Sunday, they could be facing the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, quarterback Robert Griffin III. Despite suffering a knee injury in last week’s win over the Baltimore Ravens, Griffin III was able to practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
During his rookie season, Griffin has thrown for 2,906 yards and 18 touchdowns against four interceptions. He has added 748 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries.
“There are a lot of teams that have tried and had limited success,” Shurmur said of containing Griffin. “When you talk about the running game, it’s about playing team defense, and everybody’s got to be aggressive. They’ve got to address their gaps, defeat their blocks, and then, go chase the football. We’ve got to have a guy in every gap. That sounds cliché, but that’s the way it works.
“Now, you add the element of the play-action, which they do extremely well. Then, we’ve got to read our keys and get where we need to be. When they choose to drop back and throw the football, whether we’re playing man or zone, we’ve got to be in the right spots. It’s going to take a consistent effort from everyone on the field.”
BUILDING A STAFF
During his Thursday morning press conference, Shurmur talked about his first task after becoming head coach of the Browns in Jan. of 2011: building a coaching staff. Once he accepted the offer to coach the team, Shurmur called his former boss, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, about the availability of one of Reid’s assistants, Dick Jauron.
Jauron later joined the Browns as defensive coordinator after serving as a defensive backs coach/senior assistant to the defense with the Eagles in 2010.
“I asked Andy and when that was the case, then, fortunately, I was able to hire him,” Shurmur said. “There were only a couple of guys on this staff that I didn’t know a great deal about. Ultimately, I made the call on that.
“I’ve always admired (Coach Jauron). You become a fan of the league and so, you watch how people do things. We were in Philadelphia when he built a playoff-caliber team in Chicago. I knew a lot about him through his days of working with my uncle (Fritz Shurmur). I admired him first, as a person, as a teacher, and then, of course, his knowledge and what he’s accomplished. I thought he’d be an outstanding guy to inspire our guys on defense.”
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