BEREA, Ohio—The Browns have longed for a dominant pass rusher from the defensive end position for over a decade.
They hope they’ve found one in Jabaal Sheard.
The second-year defensive end from Pitt accounted for 8½ sacks as a rookie, but he thinks he left more on the field. The last time the Browns had a defensive end account for at least 8½ sacks was when Keith McKenzie had the same number back in 2000.
“There were probably some sacks I could’ve had if I finish the play,” Sheard said. “It’s something I definitely want to be great at. I definitely want to be the best at my position, that’s what I work for.
“I don’t know yet where I stand—there are some elite guys out there,” he said. “But I hope one day I can be one of those guys.”
Sheard (6-2, 255) had 55 tackles as a rookie with five forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and two passes broken up. Sheard was named to the Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers Association (PFW/PFWA) All-Rookie team. He finished second in the AFC among rookies in sacks to Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller, but he dedicated himself this past off-season to becoming better at stopping the run.
“You just always look to get better,” Sheard said. “You always think you did good, but that isn’t good enough. There’s always time for improvement and I definitely want to improve in the run game.”
Pat Shurmur said a lot of stopping the run is recognition and familiarity with the position.
“He’s got to understand obviously this game and where he fits in his gaps and situations where it’s going to be a run.”
“Sometime before the play (happens, it’s) recognizing what’s coming,” Sheard said. “Seeing where they are loaded, you can see the fullback offset and the tight end to me, I got a better chance they’re going to run toward me, just noticing that and technique a little bit. With the tight end, getting rid of him faster and getting a chance to get off and make the play in the backfield.
“As long as you know what’s coming, it always will help you,” he said. “You know where to lean to, you know where their power is at and you know where your help is coming from on defense. So it’s definitely the preparation before the play.”
Sheard admits he lost his focus as a rookie, at times.
“But sometimes I lose focus on what I need to focus on, as far as the tight end,” he said. “I want to fight back into the tackle when all I need to do is attack the tight end.”
Sheard started his rookie at right end and spent his first days at the NFL level in practice going up against perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas. After the first game of the regular season, he flipped over to the left side and has been there since.
“I was nervous a little bit when I came out, then I got out on the field and I was going against Joe,” he said. “So I was like, I don’t know if I can really play here.”
Playing against Thomas could make any player doubt, let alone a rookie, but the work against the best prepared Sheard for the season.
“We got into the games and it was just football is football.”
15 Miss Practice: The biggest story coming out of Sunday’s practice was that the Browns had 15 players on their roster that didn’t practice.
Shurmur is not talking about injury specifics this season and his answer regarding WR Travis Benjamin and LB Scott Fujita not being out there was that they were “a little sore from the game”. Neither were listed on the injury report in Detroit.
Shurmur was asked if there was any update on the four players that left the game against the Lions including, WR Mohamed Massaquoi (head), DB Dimitri Patterson (ankle), DL Scott Paxson (knee) and TE Jordan Cameron (back).
“Not really,” he said. “They’re a little nicked up.”
Shurmur was asked if there was any clarification about Massaquoi’s injury since Shurmur termed it a concussion after the game, but Massaquoi posted on his Twitter account that it was “precautionary” as the reason he left the game.
“I told you what happened (after the game),” Shurmur said. “He had a concussion.”
Massaquoi, Patterson and Paxson were not on the field, while Cameron was on the field riding the stationary bike. Benjamin and Fujita were also not on the practice field. Massaquoi will have to follow the NFL protocol for head injuries.
Others not practicing and on the bike were DL Phil Taylor (pectoral), DB Usama Young (hamstring), TE Ben Watson (undisclosed), and DL Frostee Rucker (undisclosed). LB D’Qwell Jackson was on the sideline watching practice, but did not participate. LB Marcus Benard (undisclosed), FB Eddie Williams (undisclosed), LB Chris Gocong (Achilles) and RB Trent Richardson (knee) were also absent rounding out the contingent.
Dress Rehearsal: Shurmur said that the first team offense and defense will play the entire first half against the Packers Thursday in the second preseason game. Typically, the third preseason game is considered the dress rehearsal, but the Browns and the Eagles are scheduled to play in that game and then two weeks later, the two teams open the regular season.
“Typically, it’s the third (preseason) game and this year Philadelphia is our third (preseason game)and they’re our opening game,” Shurmur said.
Gordon Update: WR Josh Gordon had a rough night in his first preseason game. He had three targets but no catches.
“He’s a rookie in the NFL and has to learn by doing,” Shurmur said. “He’s extremely talented, but needs to stay motivated. I would anticipate him playing his way through it by the season. He just needs to keep working.”
In practice Sunday, Gordon stopped on a pass downfield from QB Colt McCoy and was immediately replaced by WR Josh Cribbs.
“I’m definitely working my way through it,” he said. “I’m practicing the next couple of days and want to be more prepared (for Green Bay). “
Gordon said he felt like he did “alright for the first game.”
Not a Tweeter: Shurmur seemed a bit irritated when told that WR Mohamed Massaquoi tweeted that his head injury was precautionary, contradicting Shurmur calling the injury a concussion.
“I don’t like (tweets),” Shurmur said. “That’s my policy. I encouraged (the players) to not do it, but (if they do I) encourage and inspire them to be professional and not disclose (Browns business).”
Recently, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis banned his players from tweeting, but Shurmur said he wouldn’t do that.
“I’m not going to pick a fight with Twitter,” he said. “I know social media is a part of our society.”