Smith Finds His Niche

Browns tight end Alex Smith relishes his new found opportunities.

BEREA — Many times, four tight ends can be a crowd.

It was a mild surprise that the Cleveland Browns kept Alex Smith as a fourth tight end following the final cut down to 53 players. With the drafting of Jordan Cameron in the fourth round, it appeared Smith would be the odd man out. Ben Watson was the mainstay from 2010 with 68 receptions and Evan Moore just signed to a two-year, multi-million dollar contract extension.

Last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Smith had three receptions for 19 yards in what was his most extensive playing time since joining the Browns. He nearly caught a touchdown pass, but couldn't get both is feet down.

"I tried to make a play for the team and I came up a little short," he said. "Just to have coach call my number right there, it was a big boost for me. Hopefully, I can come down with it next time."

Pat Shurmur likes what Smith brings to the Browns.

"He's a steady player," Shurmur said. "I really have a strong appreciation for what he is. He's primarily a blocker, but we threw him the ball a couple times and he made big plays."

Smith, 29, was active for three games in 2010 and had one reception for six yards. Smith was a third-round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005. Prior to the 2011 season, Smith had 133 career receptions in 49 games started.

"I was definitely excited about the opportunity just to be back out there," Smith said. "It has been awhile. To be out there and be able to contribute (last) week, felt really good. I can't sit up here and lie to you and say it was easy. It was definitely a trying time.

"I've gone from starting four or five years of my career to not even being active. But for me, sulking wasn't going to get me anywhere. I just had to keep working."

Smith, 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, is considered as more of a blocking tight end than Moore and Cameron. Smith can act as a sixth offensive linemen in the two tight end set.

"I just think the more you can do, teams look at that the more they can use you and feel comfortable with you out there," Smith said. "We have to follow behind (Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty) and get that run game kicked up and I think that makes the passing game that much easier for us."

Shurmur thinks Smith can play an important role in the Browns offense, particularly in the running game.

"In games where you're battling it out for five-yard chunks, that's when you see a guy like Alex show up," Shurmur said. "I think he did that."

Notebook

McCoy's Job: Quarterback Colt McCoy has been termed ‘efficient' through two games. He has three touchdowns and one interception and a rating of 82.2.

Shurmur didn't want to compare McCoy's rookie season to this season.

"In terms of comparing his performance from last year to this year, I don't know what he was being told (last year)," Shurmur said. "I know he was put into the game because of injuries.

"in my mind, this is his third game. Last year, he had some gritty performances."

Cribbs Special Teams Player of Week: Joshua Cribbs was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week last weekend. Cribbs averaged 40 yards on two kickoff returns and 26 yards on two punt returns. His 52-yard kickoff return and 43-yard punt return set up two Browns' touchdowns.

Cribbs ranks fifth in the NFL in kickoff returns with a 34.2 average and seventh in punt returns with a 13.8 average. Cribbs has won the award four times, with the last being in Week 15 of the 2009 season. He has also been AFC Special Teams Player of the Month three times.

Cribbs' has been a major catalyst to the Browns offense in the first two games. Shurmur said he expects teams to start kicking away from him. One option would be for teams to kick short.

"I think (squibs) are coming," Shurmur said. "Unless you can guarantee the (kicked) ball goes through the uprights, it might come out."

Cribbs has been bringing kicks out of the end zone seven- and eight-yards deep.

Pashos Back: Shurmur said that right tackle Tony Pashos would be practicing and trying to get back on the field for this week's game.

Prior to the opener, Pashos tried to practice with his ankle, but seemed to re-injure it and he missed the first two games.

"He's going to make an effort," Shurmur said. "He's planning to do more this week than he did last week."

Pashos practiced with the team in the field house and was taking part in all the drills during the media's time watching practice.

Shurmur didn't indicate that linebacker Titus Brown (ankle) or defensive back Eric Hagg (knee) would be ready to practice this week. Neither player practiced on Wednesday. Both have missed the first two games.

Wildcat Extinction: The Dolphins seemed to be the beginning of the NFL's version of the ‘Wildcat' offense with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Both players are now gone and former Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is running the Dolphins' offense. The Dolphins have Reggie Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas in the backfield and might use the ‘Wildcat' against the Browns.

Shurmur has not been a big proponent of the ‘Wildcat' despite having Cribbs on the roster.

"When it sprung on the scene, the Dolphins had a victory against the Patriots with it and committed to it," Shurmur said. "Then you saw every team in the league try it."

There seems to be less and less of the version of the offense now.

"Why teams got away from it, I don't know."

Shurmur said he isn't opposed to the wrinkle.

"I think there are some concepts to it that can be used."

Shurmur said with the shortened offseason and training camp, he had other things to worry about.

"I was more ready for us to get in the huddle and take a snap."

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