By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Catching on: When the Browns return to training camp in six weeks or so, the biggest question mark will be not at quarterback but at wide receiver.
The team’s plans at the position, pretty much articulated by President Mike Holmgren in various interviews, are these:
1. Hope that the leaner, quicker Greg Little blossoms into a consistent play-maker.
2. Hope that Mohamed Massaquoi stays healthy and overcomes the lingering trauma of the James Harrison-induced concussion in 2010.
3. Hope that the speed of rookie Travis Benjamin opens up the underneath routes inherent in the West Coast playbook.
4. Sprinkle in some Josh Cribbs but not overtax him from returning as a significant, full-time contributor on special teams.
5. Hope that somebody in the group of Jordan Norwood, Josh Cooper and Carlton Mitchell jumps out and surprises as a consistent, reliable contributor.
Another reference to poor quarterbacking: At his press conference on Thursday, Holmgren was asked why he thinks the presence of a new quarterback alone will result in the current receivers magically getting open.
“That’s a good question,” Holmgren responded, “but you are working on a tremendous assumption there that last year they weren’t open. Where I would say they were open probably more than you thought and we just didn’t get them the ball.”
Because Colt McCoy started 13 of the 16 games last year, it’s assumed that Holmgren was referring to his inability to deliver the ball. Maybe not to receivers who were open the entire play, but for the short window in which they were open. Holmgren also put some of the blame on the coaches for not throwing to the receivers enough – both in games and in practice.
In the context of too many drops, Holmgren suggested the receivers get frustrated at the few opportunities they receive and often lose focus and concentration.
“Most of the guys that we have at wide receiver are good receivers,” Holmgren said. “Now we just have to get them the football. We have to get them the football and give them chances.”
Holmgren cited a recent day at OTA practice, at which he charted how few opportunities Mohamed Massaquoi received. Holmgren exaggerated that Massaquoi got one pass and ran “a thousand routes.”
“So I go to the coaching staff and I said, ‘Hey, (what’s going on?),’” Holmgren said. “And they (say), ‘Well, we’re working on these routes.’ I said, ‘I don’t care. You have got to figure out a way in your scripting. He’s got to get some touches, otherwise no wonder they get ticked off. No wonder they lose interest. No wonder they drift for a little bit. They have got to feel a part of it, so that’s why.’”
Mo the Man: Holmgren reiterated that Massaquoi holds the key to the entire receiver situation. He also reiterated that Massaquoi never has been the same since Harrison’s jolting cheap shot in a game in the middle of the 2010 season.
“I think he’s ready to have a breakout year,” Holmgren said. “I think he’s healthy, for one. Now, he denied this as I would expect him to do, but I think when he got bumped in that situation with Harrison, I think it probably took him a little while to get back from that. Again, he and I might argue about that, but that’s my feeling.
“In talking with him all during this minicamp, having Nolan Cromwell as a part of the coaching staff who is very, very precise and on those guys to do the right thing, that a receiver like Mo, who has good size and who catches the ball easy, smart … there is no reason to think that he shouldn’t be fine. There is nothing there to tell you this shouldn’t work.
“Now we have to pass him the ball.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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