He started the first three games, was benched for a game, started the next five, then was benched for three more. He returned to the starting lineup Thursday night in Pittsburgh, making four tackles with a pass breakup.
“I think he’s handled it well,” coach Eric Mangini said Monday.
Mangini said defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and secondary coach Jerome Henderson met with McDonald last week. McDonald has struggled all season allowing long pass plays and has been inconsistent tackling.
“They talked to him about the importance of being able to address the areas that we wanted him to address, and I thought he’s responded well to it,” Mangini said. “The nice thing for anybody who’s here is each week you’ll have the opportunity to change your status. That’s real. He sees it’s real, all the guys see it’s real.
“It’s important they understand that, because you’re not in a hole you can’t get out of, you’re not in a situation you can’t change by improving in certain areas.”
Ryan said a couple of weeks ago that McDonald was down emotionally for one practice, but bounced back and worked hard. He had played nickelback after Mike Adams replaced him in the lineup.
Mangini said practice is where the improvement must be made.
“Whenever you’re struggling you try to really emphasize those things in practice, really isolate ‘em,” he said. “It’s hard to go out and work on something you’re not very good at. It’s uncomfortable. You’re not going to look as good as you want to look during the course of practice, but as a coaching staff we get that.
“Without identifying those things and having a deliberate plan to fix it, it never gets any better. So we’re always encouraging guys. The easy thing is to go out and do the stuff you’re good at.”
Quinn to win?
Mangini was non-committal when asked if he thought Brady Quinn could be the long-term answer at quarterback.
“We’re going to look at the whole body of work and all of the different things and not just for Brady but for the group and see where we are and assess it at that point, as opposed to doing it right now,” Mangini said.
Quinn was benched after three starts, then reinserted in the lineup following the bye. He’s gone four games without an interception and beat Pittsburgh in his first try, but has struggled with his accuracy. He’s completed 53 percent of his passes.
Is it hard to evaluate Quinn when he’s surrounded by a group of young skill players?
“It’s the situation we’re in and the good thing is they are developing and each week it’s gotten a little bit better from that group as well,” Mangini said.
Mangini acknowledged punter Dave Zastudil had surgery “a little while ago.” He didn’t give specifics. Zastudil kicked in eight games before a right knee injury flared up. The left-footed kicker was battling soreness all year but had hoped to finish out the season. He averaged 44.7 yards, with a 39.1 net and landed 25 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Starting defensive ends Robaire Smith (hip) and Kenyon Coleman (knee) might be available Sunday against Kansas City. Smith was in and out of the lineup against Pittsburgh, and Coleman has missed the last two games.
“I feel pretty comfortable (Smith) will be in a spot where he can help us,” Mangini said. “I think Kenyon is making some progress. I think he has a real shot this week.”
Smith said after the Steelers game he’d get treatment and be ready for the Chiefs.
The Browns (2-11) are in the mix for a high draft pick, but Mangini said that wouldn’t change his approach on game days.
“It can never be looked at it in terms of trying to get a better draft position,” he said. “You never, never look at it that way. You’re trying to win the game that you’re playing.”
The Browns are tied with Detroit for the third spot, behind one-win St. Louis and Tampa Bay.
The players were given off from Friday afternoon through today. They report back for practice Wednesday.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.