BEREA, Ohio--The Browns know they need to get a running game going for them to have success this year. By trading Trent Richardson after just two games means the Browns need the slack picked up quickly.
Willis McGahee joined the Browns last week and had just one day of practice before playing against the Vikings. He expects a big difference this week against the Bengals.
"It's going to be a dramatic improvement this week," McGahee said. "I am going to have more than nine yards, don't worry about that.
"Something is gonna pop out," he said. "Whether it's a touchdown or a 100-yard game, I don't know, but something is definitely popping for me on Sunday."
Despite one day of practice, McGahee ended up carrying the ball eight times in his first game and even he was surprised by that.
"Just being here all week and showing the coaches that I can do it.," he said. "Being here (one day), I wasn't expecting that many carries (last week)."
McGahee said he's getting more and more comfortable with the offense and expects to be more productive in the near future.
"I feel a whole lot better," McGahee said. "I'm more comfortable. (Having an extra week) makes a difference. It just takes time."
McGahee said his first game was pretty much what he expected.
"It was pretty much what I expected," he said. "I've been home and haven't been playing football in six or seven months."
He's confident the running game will start to click sooner than later.
"We're going to come alive," he said. "It's a work in progress."
McGahee had a long run of nine yards.
Rob Chudzinski said he thinks McGahee is prepared to take on a bigger role.
"I expect he will improve and has improved," he said. "Just getting back out there and playing again, just from a physical standpoint getting back into it again, has been good for him and I think he'll continue to keep improving. Mentally, he's familiar with the system terminology, so that hasn't really been an issue, at all."
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said the Browns have to get the running game going.
"There's no question," he said. "You definitely have to have balance or it will come back and get you."
The plan for the near future is to employ a running back by committee with McGahee, Bobby Rainey and Chris Ogbonnaya, but McGahee said he hopes to get to the point where he gets 15 to 20 rushes a game.
"(Ogbonnaya) is doing a great job, whether he's at fullback or tailback," he said. "I can't complain about that. But for me as a competitor, I like touching the rock. I think we're going to work well together."
McGahee is anxious to have a breakout game.
"I want to go out and do my thing."
McGahee was asked what he meant by that.
"I want to go out and get 100 yards with a couple TD's."
McGahee said he believes he still can carry the load. In 2011, when he played all but one game, McGahee rushed 249 times for 1,199 yards (4.8 avg.) and four touchdowns. In 2012, McGahee was on pace for 1,000 yards until he injured his knee and missed the final six games. In 10 games, McGahee had 731 yards on 167 carries (4.4 avg.) and also caught 26 passes for 221 yards.
"No doubt about it, I'm the last of a dying breed," McGahee said on his production. " I can say things, but no one will believe me until they see it."
Iron Joe: LT Joe Thomas will suit up for his 100th straight NFL game on Sunday. Thomas has played every snap (6,054) since joining the Browns as the third pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Thomas is tied for the third longest active stretch in the NFL among offensive linemen. The Jets D'Brickashaw Ferguson and the Falcons' Justin Blalock are the other two.
"I can't say enough great things about Joe Thomas," Chudzinksi said. "He's fabulous. This past game, he was outstanding. The things that he has done, especially from a leadership standpoint with the team, he was huge in us last week in that game. I just can't say enough about the guy.
"He's going to be a Hall of Famer," he said. "100 games in a row is almost unheard of. It speaks of his durability and how good he is. I'm just glad he's on our team."
Thomas said he still feels young.
“I still feel like a youngster, but 100 seems like a lot of games when you think about it,” Thomas laughed. “Just getting into the triple digits is starting to get up there.”
Thomas said he has blessed with the ability to stay on the field.
“It’s tough to be healthy in this league for 16 games, and to be able to do that for multiple seasons in a row and not even have to come off the field one time,” Thomas said. “I think it is a little bit of a point of pride, especially for the guys that have played in the NFL. They understand how hard it is to play every, single week, stay healthy and try to play at a high level.
“I try to do the little things off the field to try to take care of my body, to make sure I can withstand an entire season," he said. "Stretching, I think, is a really important thing that often gets overlooked, but genetics is a big part of it. You see guys that are just injury-prone and guys that are durable and last forever. That’s something that can’t be overlooked.”
Thomas has been to the Pro Bowl in all six of his NFL seasons, trailing only Jim Brown (9) and Lou Groza (9) for the most by a Browns player.
Weeden Update: QB Brandon Weeden threw a baseball and then a softball before throwing the football for the first time since spraining his right thumb against the Ravens on Sept. 15.
"It's getting better," he said. "The training staff has done a great job. They were expecting more of a setback but it's been great."
Weeden backed off a little when he was asked what he meant by "more of a setback".
"It was a legit injury and I think maybe I healed faster than (they thought) originally."
Chudzinski was asked how Weeden is doing.
"He's progressing," he said. "Today was the first day he threw with the football."
Weeden asked when he thought he would be ready to return.
"I'm still taking it day-by-day," he said. "When the staff (clears me), I'll be out there."
Weeden was asked if he expects to regain his starting job when he returns.
"At this point where we're at, it's kind of out of my control," he said. "My main focus is to take the steps to allow me to get back and be 100 percent. There's no reason to rush back and get healthy. Whenever I am, I'll sit down with Chud and go from there.
"Once I get healthy then we'll cross that bridge."
Weeden said he felt out of place watching the Vikings game from the sideline.
"I felt like a duck out of water on the sidelines," he said. "It's frustrating as a competitive guy, you want to be out there."
When asked if he was able to learn anything from watching.
"Don't get hurt," he laughed. "Injuries suck. They happen, things happen for a reason."
Sheard Doubtful: The official injury report came out Friday: DL Billy Winn (calf), QB Brandon Weeden (thumb) and LB Quentin Groves (ankle) are ruled out. LB Jabaal Sheard (knee) is doubtful, wile OL Shawn Lauvao (ankle), K Billy Cundiff (thigh) are questionable. OL Oniel Cousins (chest) was upgraded to probable. DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), WR Josh Gordon (ankle) and DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf) were all probable.
"We'll see how he's doing," Chudzinski said. "The good thing is last week, he got hurt and he was able to come back in (the game)."
LB Barkevious Mingo is expected to start his first NFL game in place of Sheard. Chudzinski thinks Mingo can handle the increased load but if he needs help LB Paul Hazel or LB Eric Martin can fill in.
"We feel like we have some other guys that can rush the passer," Chudzinski said. "I think he's really progressed, not just on the field as a player, but he's a guy who has tremendous conditioning, so I haven't worried about that. He's been getting more and more reps each week and like I said we have some guys who can come in and play and develop a rotation if Jabaal cannot play."
Lauvao Ready: OL Shawn Lauvao was listed as questionable on the injury report, but he had a full week of practice and there's a good chance he will play right guard Sunday. If he plays, it will be the first action of the season for Lauvao, who sprained his ankle in training camp. He underwent arthroscopic surgery during the preseason.
"We'll wait and see how he feels," Chudzinski said. "We'll evaluate (Friday's) practice on tape. He's been working back in and getting a good feel. He's been moving around pretty well. That's why we list him as questionable."
Cundiff Practices: K Billy Cundiff returned to practice Friday and appears to be ready to kick Sunday after suffering a quad injury against the Vikings. Cundiff didn't want to answer questions concerning the injury.
"I'm doing everything I can to play," Cundiff said.
When asked how much he kicked in practice, he replied. "I kicked enough to see how I feel."
"He kicked and seemed to have no problems," Chudzinski said. "We'll see how he feels (Saturday). We have a plan and we'll stick to that plan going forward."
Chudzinski was asked if the plan was to bring in another kicker, if Cundiff can't go.
"We have possibilities with Spencer (Lanning), as well as other guys that are out there."
Legends Honored: The Browns will honor former Browns greats Galen Fiss and Abe Gibron into the Legends Club on Sunday when the Browns host the Bengals. Fiss was a linebacker for the Browns from 1956-65, while Gibron played guard from 1950-56. Jim Brown, who was honored in the first Legends Class will be honored at next week's Browns/Bills nationally televised game.