Why is John Greco so confident that he can step in and be effective as the starting center of the Cleveland Browns? He's absorbed everything from just being next to Alex Mack in the class room and on the football field.
"I played next to Alex Mack, one of the best at the position for years now," said Greco in the locker room on Wednesday. "I learned a lot from him and we have two great coaches in our room…Our biggest thing is that you have to accept coaching."
What Greco did embodies coach Mike Pettine's "Play like a Brown" mantra. He's preached to his players they must be mentally tough enough to overcome any obstacle that happens in a game situation. Nobody could've foreseen Alex Mack, who has played every snap since 2009, going down for the season. But on the first play, Greco stepped right in, picked up a blitz up the middle and set the tone that the center position was not going to be a problem for the Browns even without the Pro Bowler Mack. Players like Greco don't get the media recognition they deserve, but the 29-year-old's name has been ringing praises from inside the team facility.
The transition for Greco to center isn't as abnormal as you would think. It may have only been for a few snaps once a week during practice, but Greco has always been tabbed the Browns' emergency center from day one this season. Quarterback Brian Hoyer and Greco have been taking extra snaps on the side of practice this week to make sure they have a rhythm established.
"Our communication level has been good. He's been open with me if I have questions," said Greco. "If he says, 'I didn't like that,' we're going to redo it."
Pettine hasn't officially named a starter yet, because he wants to evaluate the practice tape of Greco and Nick McDonald, who has fully recovered from a wrist injury. In a rather rare occurrence, the Browns claimed McDonald off waivers from the San Diego Chargers in late July, fully knowing McDonald would be out several months rehabbing his wrist.
If Cleveland does decide to move Greco to center for the Jaguars game, they will have to find a replacement at right guard. It will likely remain Paul McQuistan, who played the position last game, but McDonald and Vinston Painter can also both play guard.
Video: and Buster Skrine play Jenga and discuss the Browns
Three things I wonder
1) I wonder if John Hughes grabs this starting position at defensive end by the horns and never looks back. Hughes isn't the pass rushing guru like Armonty Bryant was, but he's fundamentally sound and is a run-stuffing machine. Hughes is now listed as number one on the depth chart and if he plays like he did against Pittsburgh, he may be cementing his name as a major contributor the rest of the season.
2) I wonder if we see Duke Johnson Jr. this week. The last time the rookie quarterback trotted out onto the field was during the Week 3 game against the Baltimore Ravens. The trick play in which Manziel caught a pass and ran 35 yards down the field was nullified due to an illegal motion penalty. But clearly, Manziel has a unique skillset that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan can use. On the other side of the coin, taking the red-hot Hoyer out of the game might be unnecessary. Still, Manziel, like always, is something to keep an eye on.
3) I wonder if Browns fans will travel as heavily as they did to Nashville for the Titans game. Obviously fans can't bus or drive to Jacksonville from Ohio, but Tennessee saw an influx of Browns fans from Louisiana, Texas and other nearby states. It won't shock us, or linebacker Karlos Dansby, if we see a large chunk of orange and brown in sunny Florida. Remember there are large Browns Backers contingents in Orlando and South Florida, too. "I've seen college fans travel in packs, but never like this in the NFL," said Dansby. "You don't understand how pumped it gets us."