BEREA—Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga said he didn’t see anything ‘spectacular’ from running back Trent Richardson last Sunday.
“He can run you over and you can miss a tackle, at the same time, from what we’ve seen he didn’t do nothing spectacular,” Maualuga told CBSSports.com earlier this week. “From running screens, missing passes, trying to find a hole when he’s running the ball. He just didn’t do anything spectacular from what I’ve seen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to want to get after it once he plays us.”
Maualuga was the 37th player selected in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Bengals, one spot after the Browns selected wide receiver Brian Robiskie. Maualuga had seven tackles in the season opener against the Ravens.
Richardson did have very pedestrian numbers in his debut with just 39 yards in 19 carries for a 2.1 average. He caught one pass for five yards and dropped a pass in his first action after missing a month of training camp and the entire preseason.
Richardson’s response to Maualuga’s comments was short and to the point.
“Of course, it sparked me,” Richardson said after practice Thursday. “I’ll just let my game speak for itself on Sunday.”
Pat Shurmur said it wasn’t his style to put stories or quotes like that in a player’s locker to give the player extra incentive.
Offensive coordinator Brad Childress said he there’s no doubt in is mind that Richardson will break loose soon.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Childress said. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
Shurmur said he expects more from Richardson this week.
“I think so.,” he said. “I saw him practice yesterday better than he did a week ago. I anticipate he’ll have a better performance.”
Childress said there was no formula on how much work Richardson could handle in his first game.
“I think he was strong,” Childress said. “We saw more spryness (Wednesday at practice. We were comfortable with him obviously.
“We didn’t want to overdo it and didn’t,” he said. “You have to trust your eyes. It’s more a feel thing as you go along.”
Richardson said he expects more this week.
“Yeah, most definitely,” he said. “My expectations are always going to be high. I always set my goals high and the sky is always the limit as I see it as how good I can be or how good this team can be.
“As a group and as a unit how much we can come together and try to do the best we can to win.”
Richardson said he’s more than ready to expand his role, whether that be more carries or on third down.
“I’m going to play my role,” he said. “If coach needs me on third down, I’m going to go in on third down. If he needs Brandon (Jackson) to be in there, if he needs Chris (Ogbonnaya) to be in there, Montario (Hardesty), whoever it is we are all out here hungry for the same thing.
“We are all ready to win, so whichever one of us he puts in there, we will do everything it takes to win.”
Division Drought: The Browns were winless in the AFC North last season and are hoping to get out of the gate with a win in their first divisional game this week.
“The initial goal is to win the division because that’s what gets you to the playoffs,” Shurmur said. “It’s important and we have to get it done.”
Injury Report: Doubtful: LB James-Michael Johnson (ribs/oblique, DB Ray Ventrone (hand); Questionable: OL Oniel Cousins (ankle), OL John Greco (calf), OL Joe Thomas (knee), TE Ben Watson (thigh). Probable: DB Sheldon Brown (neck), TE Jordan Cameron (groin), LB Scott Fujita (knee), OL Alex Mack (knee), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (ankle) and RB Trent Richardson (knee). CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) is out for the Bengals. Neither Ventrone or Johnson practiced Thursday.
Thomas has not missed a game in his five-year career—starting 81-straight games-- practiced with a wrap on his left knee.
Thomas said the injury isn’t a concern.
“I’m doing good,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “When you start getting to be an old man like me, you need to care less reps (in practice).”
Where’s Jordan?: The anticipation coming into the season was that TE Jordan Cameron would be much more involved in the passing game after being an afterthought as a rookie. Cameron was injured in the preseason and is listed on the injury report this week with a groin injury.
In the opener with the Eagles, Cameron had no receptions and just one ball thrown his way.
“There’s no conspiracy theory,” Shurmur said. “He was part of an offense that wasn’t very effective. I’m happy with him.”
Shurmur called Cameron the most improved player from a season ago.
“He’s one of those guys from a year ago, he’s improved the most and I think there’s a huge upside for him,” he said. “The more you practice and play, the better you get.”
The Browns released TE Evan Moore, in large part because of the emergence of Cameron.
Schwartz Play: Shurmur described rookie RT Mitchell Schwartz’s play in his NFL debut against the Eagles.
“I thought he battled pretty well,” Shurmur said. “There were a couple of plays that he could’ve done better. He did better against Philadelphia than he did in the preseason matchup. Everybody has to play better than we did.”
LT Joe Thomas said he sees the development of Schwartz.
“He’s making good improvement,” Thomas said. “I expect him to keep improving.”
Fujita Ready: Shurmur said that if LB Scott Fujita is ready to play Sunday, he will, even with the chance that his suspension will be re-instated.
“Scott looked good,” he said. “This is a all hands on deck time of year.”
Fujita is looking forward to finally getting back on the field.
“I’m excited to get back on the field,” he said. “It’s been a long, weird off-season.”
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said he will see how Fujita looks in the final practices.
“We’ll see how it works with Scott and how he holds up,” he said. “He hasn’t played in a while.”
Jauron likes the way LB Craig Robertson and LB L.J. Fort played.
“The young guys played hard and fast and had fun,” he said. “They were productive.
“They’re both tough and they can run,” he said. “To this point, they’ve been great teammates. They fit right in and have been quality performers on special teams. They’re quick and fast and they can get to people in the run game.”
DB’s Challenge: Jauron admitted the Browns will have a tough task defending WR A.J. Green, especially losing CB Joe Haden starting this week. Haden has kept Green’s numbers in check, although he gave up one big play in each game last season—both contributing greatly in the Browns losing the game.
“Joe’s done a pretty good chance against everybody,” Jauron said. “One play is always critical. (Green’s) a very talented receiver and they target him.
“It’s never a good thing (to lose a player),” Jauron said. “The guys who’ve been here will get a chance to go out and compete. We’ll be O.K. It’s a challenge to go against their skill people.”
Jauron said he doesn’t think the absence of Haden will affect the calls he makes regarding blitzes.
“I don’t think it will affect the way we call the game.”
Whether it’s CB Dimitri Patterson or CB Buster Skrine, both will have their hands full Sunday.
“Whoever plays on A.J. Green will have a challenge because he’s a very good player,” Jauron said.
Jauron likes the way Skrine and Patterson play.
“They only know one way to play and we like how they play.”
Worth Quoting: OC Brad Childress on the O-Line’s play against the Eagles: “It could’ve been better. It wasn’t’ good enough to win.
“Winning is a great deodorant.”