When coach Mike Pettine confirmed the Browns would give Connor Shaw first-team snaps at practice Tuesday, the Twitter-sphere went berserk with interest in the rookie quarterback from South Carolina.
Because Johnny Manziel's been ruled out with a hamstring injury and because Brian Hoyer is nursing a banged-up shoulder, the probability Shaw runs out of the tunnel in Baltimore as Cleveland's starter is looking more likely as each day passes.
Shaw's always wearing his game face. Minutes after completing his first-ever NFL starting practice reps, there was no sign of nerves from the 23-year-old, who has been in the saddle before.
"Hopefully I will take it on the fly and have a sense of urgency when I get out there," Shaw said. "I know we'll be ready."
At South Carolina, Shaw built his reputation on the biggest thing a quarterback can do: Winning. Shaw was 27-5 as the Gamecocks quarterback with an unbeaten 17-0 record at home. In his senior year, he threw 24 touchdowns to just one interception. It didn't always look flawless, but Shaw continually got the job done.
"He's a tough kid. He's smart," Hoyer said of Shaw. "He's a competitive guy. It definitely won't be easy [to play against the Ravens], but I know he will be prepared."
Shaw has been handling his business on the practice squad like a professional all season long, paying his dues as a member of the Browns. Whatever the coaching staff needed, Shaw was right there absorbing the same information, just with a different role than Hoyer or Manziel. Whether it was simulating Cam Newton on the scout team or watching extra film to quiz Manziel on coverages, Shaw fulfilled his duties and then some. Shaw has even played safety when needed on the scout-team defense, which he said gave him a unique angle on how to read defenses.
"I saw our offense from a different perspective," Shaw said of playing defense. "We watch so much film. I prepare for the games and read scouting reports, too. I've stayed sharp in that way."
Let's also remember it was Shaw who produced the most worthwhile performance on offense in an otherwise bumpy preseason. Shaw completed 8-of-9 passes for 123 yards, including a buzzer-beater 45-yard Hail Mary touchdown against the Redskins. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, but enough was put on film for him to earn a spot on the practice squad.
"I think I proved to myself I could play in this league," Shaw said. "Hopefully, if I get the opportunity, I'll make some plays."
Pettine was the first to admit Shaw isn't a supreme athlete and he doesn't possess the strongest arm. That's not why the Browns picked him up as an undrafted free agent.
For Shaw, it's all about his desire from within and work ethic. Shaw's high school coach was his dad and his college coach was Steve Spurrier, both of whom "were very demanding."
So, why not Shaw? Why can't he join the Browns' impressive list of undrafted impact players this year – Isaiah Crowell, Taylor Gabriel, K'Waun Williams. We might see six months of hard work from Shaw translate into those *Play Like a Brown *characteristics Sunday.
News and Notes
- Hoyer was unable to throw passes today but will receive treatment the next few days and hopes to know his status by Friday.
- The Browns have signed veteran Tyler Thigpen as a backup in case Hoyer can't go.
- Pettine had more praise Tuesday for rookie cornerback Pierre Desir, who also may be in line to start a second consecutive game with Joe Haden still limited (shoulder).
- "He did play well," Pettine said. "That was a tough matchup for him at times. I think [Panthers WR Kelvin] Benjamin only ended up with about 40-to-50 yards receiving, and one of the catches was a heck of a catch…but very pleased with Pierre."
- Manziel also addressed reporters Tuesday and was still as enthused about the 2015 season as he was Sunday.
- "Looking back, I learned a lot – grew up a lot through the time that I was on the field," Manziel said. "[It's] a lot more positive for me going into the offseason with seven quarters under my belt rather than having zero."
- There is no official injury report because it's Tuesday. The Browns will release one Wednesday.