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Shurmur sees production from Greco

Posted Nov 15, 2012

Inserted into the lineup after Jason Pinkston was lost for the season, veteran offensive lineman John Greco has performed well, according to coach Pat Shurmur.

During the Cleveland Browns’ 34-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 14, second-year left guard Jason Pinkston was in and out of action due to an illness that was later discovered to be a blood clot.

Pinkston was placed on injured reserve soon thereafter and in his place, veteran offensive lineman John Greco was inserted into the starting lineup. Since that time, Greco has blocked for two 100-yard games from rookie running back Trent Richardson.

“I think he’s done a good job,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Thursday. “I don’t see a real drop-off from him being in there replacing Pinkston. He’s done a pretty solid job. I think there’s areas where he needs to get better, but for the most part, he’s done a pretty good job.”

Shurmur’s comments were echoed by the man who lines up next to Greco for every play, five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.

“It’s always hard to come in, in the middle of the year and take over for a starter that goes down, but I think he’s done a really good job coming in,” Thomas said. “He was our most readied backup. He’s got the most experience and he’s actually one of the older guys on the o-line. It has been a pretty seamless transition.”

In addition to blocking for Richardson, Greco and the Browns’ offensive linemen have allowed just three sacks on quarterback Brandon Weeden for 14 lost yards over the last three games.

“Those guys are doing a great job of keeping me off the ground,” Weeden said. “We’re getting the ball out quick, but it all starts with those guys up front, tight ends blocking, backs doing their part. My offensive line has played outstanding all year.”

Greco came to the Browns in a trade with the St. Louis Rams for an undisclosed draft pick on Aug. 1, 2011. In his three years with the Rams before the trade, Greco played in 26 games and made four regular-season starts. In 2009, he helped block for running back Steven Jackson, who ranked second in the NFC with 1,738 scrimmage yards.

When Greco became available, Shurmur and the Browns pursued him. Shurmur was St. Louis’ offensive coordinator during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

“We brought him here with the idea that he could be a multiple position guy and essentially, he’s been a backup, but I’ve seen him play in a starting role in St. Louis because we were juggling,” Shurmur said. “I saw him play guard; I saw him play center. He was our backup center and he also played a game at tackle against the 49ers.

“When you’re a backup player, initially, you’ve got to be somewhat multiple and that’s what intrigued me about getting him here. I had worked with him before, so I knew what to expect. That’s not atypical. He’s done a good job going in as a starter to this point.”

GOOD PRACTICE HABITS

With the Browns coming off of their annual bye week break, Shurmur felt practices have gone well in preparing for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

“I think the energy level’s been good, but I thought the energy level was good the way we practiced all the way through,” Shurmur said. “Maybe, it’s just fresher because they were gone for a few days, but the guys are practicing hard. They’re into it.”

INCREASING EFFICIENCY

When looking at the first half of the 2012 regular season, Shurmur set a clear goal for the team during the final seven games on the schedule, four of which will be played away from Cleveland Browns Stadium.

“Generally speaking, I want to see these guys improve from an efficiency standpoint, the way we operate,” Shurmur said. “I want to see all the young players take another jump and we need to make improvements geared toward winning football games with the first, and it’s a narrow-minded view, being this Sunday.”

COVERING THE RETURNS

The Browns allowed a return touchdown on Reggie Hodges’ first punt at Cincinnati on Sept. 16, but since that time, the team has improved in its coverage.

After nine games, the Browns allowed 13.8 yards per punt return and just 20.4 yards on kickoff returns. Conversely, they averaged 13.7 yards on 24 punt returns and 28.5 yards on 30 kickoffs.

“I don’t want to overstate it, but I think the special teams units in general, this year, have done a very fine job,” Shurmur said. “You don’t ever want to give up a kick and Adam Jones ran it back on us where we missed a bunch of tackles, but that had nothing to do with scheme. Our guys have tightened it up and I think they’ve been contributing and have performed pretty well.

“We worked like hell on it last year and we didn’t get the results that we wanted. We’ve continued to work hard on it and we’re getting better results. That’s just the way it goes.”

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