BEREA, Ohio — Josh Cribbs admitted he went third person. Typically, that’s a faux pas for professional athletes, but after Cribbs watched the film of himself hauling in a 30-yard catch late in the first half last Saturday against Detroit, he couldn’t help himself.
“When I looked at that play I was like, ‘Hey, look at that guy,’” Cribbs said. “I kind of looked at myself in third person. I saw the growth and how far I’ve come at being a wide receiver. I’m more comfortable wanting the football and having that drive to being a legitimate wide receiver.”
Entering training camp, the Browns wide receiving corps was perceived as one of the weakest position groups. Cribbs is second on the team this preseason with eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. He leads the wide receiving group, as running back Peyton Hillis has a team-high nine catches for 86 yards. In addition to Cribbs, Brian Robiskie has six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown and Mohamed Massaquoi has five catches for 72 yards. In all, 19 players have at least one reception.
“They all make plays,” quarterback Jake Delhomme said. “Every single one of them. We’ve put them in all different positions, moved them around a great deal and it’s almost by committee. They’re ego-less in a good way. Everybody has to have an ego to a certain extent, but they are ego-less when it comes to the team and that makes for a healthy offense.”
Delhomme has benefited from the Browns receivers, as he is 38-for-48 passing for 345 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“We have a collection of guys that can get the job done,” Delhomme said. “You can’t focus on just stopping one guy.”
The lack of me-first, diva-type wide receivers in the Browns locker room is evident because their main goal for the 2010 season goes beyond personal stats.
“We want to try and make ourselves known as one of the toughest wide receiving corps in the league,” Cribbs said. “We want safeties to know they better be ready to play. We’ll block you. When you play us you better fear us. We want that reputation.”
QB Conundrum: Delhomme may be locked into the Browns’ the starting quarterback position, but that doesn’t mean the team can avoid a controversy this season.
As the Browns prepare to play their final preseason game against the Chicago Bears at 8 p.m. Thursday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the quarterback responsibilities will rest on the shoulders of Colt McCoy and Brett Ratliff.
Delhomme and his back up, Seneca Wallace, will not play Thursday, according to Browns coach Eric Mangini.
McCoy and Ratliff have seen limited time in the Browns’ first three preseason games. Mangini said he has not decided who will start Thursday, but he expects both quarterbacks to play at least.
“We may mix it up to where one plays the first and fourth or first and third,” Mangini said. “I’ll talk to (offensive coordinator) Brian (Daboll) and then think about what I’ll do.”
Last week, Mangini said the Browns could keep as many as four quarterbacks or as few as two. While rumors surfaced last week that third-round pick McCoy could be one of the roster casualties, reports cited an unnamed source refuting that notion.
The first round of roster cuts is 4 p.m. today. Ratliff and McCoy appear to be safe for now, as only six of the team’s 81 players are expected to be released. Then, the roster cut down to a maximum of 53 players is at 6 p.m. Sept. 4.
McCoy is coming off his best performance of the preseason last Saturday against Detroit. McCoy finished 10-for-14 passing for 76 yards with no interceptions while Ratliff did not play.
“(Colt) has grown,” Mangini said. “He needs to improve on his decision making from his earlier games. We’re not where we need to be but it’s better than what it was. That’ll keep coming with time and experience.”
In all, McCoy is 15-for-26 passing for 101 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions and Ratliff is 8-for-19 for 61 yards passing with no touchdowns and one interception.
Since a majority of practice reps have gone to Delhomme and Wallace, McCoy said he’s been using that time to mentally absorb the duties of an NFL quarterback.
“I’ve got to keep my head up, keep working and keep moving on,” McCoy said. “Studying the game is the biggest thing for me. I need to understand how this game is played and how to prepare for all sorts of things. At the end of the day you can’t lose the fact that this is still football.”
T.J. the Tackling Machine: Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward enters the final preseason game as the defense’s leading tackler with 14, 11 of which are solo. According to Mangini, first-year players like Ward, Joe Haden (CB) and Shawn Lauavo (RG) may see more time than a few snaps Thursday against the Bears.
“I treat every game like it’s a game, preseason or not,” said Ward, who was the Browns second-round pick in last April’s draft. “I don’t look at it as a practice game or scrimmage. I go out there and perform well. That’s all I want to do.”
Although Ward is pleased with his progression, he is not content as the regular season looms.
“I’m getting used to the speed of the game and communicating and knowing my opponent better,” Ward said. “I’ve also got better at some study habits, but I’ve got a lot of work to do. However long I need to play that’s how long I’m going to play (Thursday).”
Injury Update: Tight end Ben Watson returned to practice Tuesday after missing Monday’s session for personal reasons. Offensive Tackle John St. Clair missed his second consecutive practice for personal reasons while tight end Robert Royal (ankle) and defensive back Nick Sorensen (concussion) also did not practice.