BEREA, Ohio — With the overall lack of production from the wide receivers and the recent concussions suffered by Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi, the Browns are turning to Evan Moore more and more as a wide receiver.
If Cribbs and Massaquoi can’t play against the Saints, the Browns have just three healthy receivers in Chansi Stuckey, Brian Robiskie and rookie Carlton Mitchell. Yamon Figurs was signed on Wednesday, but he has been a career punt and kick returner.
Moore was a wide receiver at Stanford, but converted to tight end when he came to the NFL. Moore asked if he is surprised that he’s spending more time on the outside as a receiver, as opposed to at tight end.
“It’s such a long season, so nothing is a surprise,” Moore said. “We all have different skill sets so I’m not worried about getting the ball. I’m not surprised because guys get hurt and you have to be ready to go because there are only 53 guys on the roster, so you have to be versatile.”
Moore has the size (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) to go up and get the ball over much smaller defensive backs. Moore has nine catches for 202 yards, including a touchdown. His 22.4 average per catch is the best on the team. After Massaquoi and Cribbs went down against Pittsburgh, Moore caught four passes for 84 yards, including a 34-yard gain.
“He works in most spots based on the formations the defenses present,” Mangini said. “He spends a lot of time outside. A big thing is during the season, are (defenses) going to cover him as a safety, view him as a tight end or view him as receiver. Some teams play base defenses against him, some put him in man to man, some in zone.”
With rookie quarterback Colt McCoy inexperienced, Mangini says the burden is not usually on him to determine the coverage on Moore.
“Usually, it’s determined by substitutions and you can see trends during the game,” Mangini said. “Whether, they are in man or zone.”
Moore said practicing more on the outside during the week does help him.
“It would help from a mental standpoint on getting leverage on routes,” he said. “I already do a lot on the outside, so I’m already comfortable.”
Moore was playing wide receiver on his 24-yard touchdown reception from Seneca Wallace in the win over the Bengals. He said he was playing the ‘Z’ position, a wide receiver spot, quite a bit against the Steelers.
“I was at the ‘Z’ because we were in the two-minute mode and were in with three receivers,” Moore said. “We do stuff out of the two tight end formation, so the transition is pretty easy. It’s not really hard for me.”
Another possibility is the elevation of Mitchell to the active roster. He has been inactive for all six games thus far. Mangini brought up Mitchell’s name without being asked about him prior to Thursday’s practice.
Mangini was asked about Shaun Lauvao and in his answer he brought up Mitchell.
“Carlton has had a good two to three weeks and things are starting to show up and anytime he could get a real live opportunity.”
Later, Mangini was asked specifically what Mitchell is doing better.
“He’s catching the ball and he’s running routes better,” Mangini said. “He’s getting reps each week with the offense. His routes are sharp and I really like his effort on the show team.”
Mitchell was a sixth-round draft choice from South Florida in April.
Mitchell said he feels he’s ready for the opportunity.
“Being the type of person I am, I feel I’m getting better every week,” he said. “Coming out of the preseason, I thought I was ready, but being around the vets has helped me.”
Mitchell said he’s learning a lot and Mangini has been encouraging him.
“They say the rookie year is the hardest year and it’s definitely been a growing experience for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to work hard and get better. (Mangini) tells me I’m working hard and doing the right things.”
Return to New Orleans: Linebacker Scott Fujita returns Sunday to play against the Saints after being a big part of the Super Bowl champion defense last season.
Fujita is second on the team in tackles with 33 behind T.J. Ward with 48. Fujita also has 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Mangini is glad to have him.
“He’s been outstanding,” Mangini said. “He’s really athletic and smart and has a lot of tools available. Fujita I’m really happy he’s here. “
Mangini said that Fujita has been able to come in and be a leader in his first year. He was elected captain by his teammates.
“Typically, when a guy was a leader at another club, you hope he’ll assume that leader with your club, but sometimes it takes time to get into that role as they get familiar,” he said. “It varies, and Scott is comfortable in his own skin, being who he is.”
Injury Update: DL Kenyon Coleman (knee), WR Josh Cribbs (head), QB Jake Delhomme (ankle), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (head), DL Shaun Rogers (ankle), TE Robert Royal (elbow), OL John St. Clair (ankle) and QB Seneca Wallace (ankle). RB Peyton Hillis (thigh), OL Alex Mack (shoulder) and OL Floyd Womack (knee). TE Ben Watson (ankle).
“Kenyon is back (Thursday)and possibly, Baby (Rogers),” Mangini said. “Everybody else is the same. Hopefully, Cribbs and Mo might be back Friday, but we’ll see.”
OL Shuffle: With the absence of John St. Clair and his replacement Tony Pashos at right tackle, the Browns are looking at a different lineup this Sunday against New Orleans.
A possibility is moving Floyd Womack to right tackle and inserting rookie Shawn Lauvao into Womack’s spot at right guard. Another possibility is to insert recently signed Paul McQuistan at right tackle.
“We’ll work in combinations and determine it later in the week,” Mangini said. “Paul being new, we’ll try to get him experience.”
Mangini said the versatility the coaching staff works on helps immensely in these situations.
“The good thing is the way (offensive line coach) George(Warhop) works the offensive line,” he said. “And how we approach it in all these weeks including training camp all guys have worked at different positions to give them reps there. All of those guys have worked in combination with others so they haven’t worked together in communication. When you can build reps over time, everyone is more comfortable.”
Eric Steinbach has worked at right tackle, but he deems himself more of an emergency tackle.
“I’m a guard, who can play tackle in an emergency,” he said.
“He’s worked at right tackle in training camp and has been a swing guy.”
If Lauvao starts or sees action, it will be his first regular season action after a good preseason that ended in a high ankle sprain that set him back.
“I think he’s made good progress and it was disappointing that he was injured because he was making good strides,” Mangini said. “We’re starting to see the same rhythm from him and if he gets the opportunity, we expect him to play well.”
Condaleezza’s Visit: Former Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice was a visitor at the Browns’ facility on Thursday. She spoke with the team.
She is a big Browns fan dating back to the Jim Brown days. She currently is on a book tour promoting her memoir “Extraordinary, Ordinary People.”
She was at Cuyahoga Community College and a book signing in Lyndhurst Wednesday night.