October 22, 2014

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Browns: Backup QB Wallace looks like he could get start Sunday

BEREA – Seneca Wallace is poised to become No. 15 again.

Wallace, who went from uniform No. 15 in Seattle to No. 6 with the Browns, would be the 15th starting quarterback for Cleveland since 1999 if he takes the first snap Sunday against the Chiefs.

All signs point in that direction.

Jake Delhomme missed practice again Friday with an injured right ankle and was listed as doubtful on the injury report, meaning there’s at least a 75 percent chance he won’t play.

He was hurt on a second-quarter interception Sunday in a 17-14 loss to Tampa Bay. He remained in the game but struggled in the second half.

Delhomme was in a sleeve and walking boot when he talked to the media Wednesday. Since then, he hasn’t been in the locker room or at practice when they’ve been open to reporters.

Wallace took over, getting much-needed repetitions with the first team. He said he had been told “somewhat” that he’d be starting in the home opener.

“I got the feel of it being out at practice and he still walks around nursing his injury,” Wallace said Friday after practice. “I’ve still been going out there practicing and doing what I’ve been doing. From that standpoint, I kinda got that feeling.”

Coach Eric Mangini said he wanted to wait until today to make a decision on his starter, but likely won’t announce it until Sunday morning before kickoff.

“Jake’s made progress all week long,” Mangini said. “He knows the game plan. He’s got such an ease with picking things up. If we’re in a situation where we could play him, I have total confidence in him.

“That being said, I feel real good about what Seneca’s done all week.”

Many of the previous quarterback changes for the Browns were related to performance. But it’s still significant that Wallace would be starter No. 15 – punter Dave Zastudil already had that number here – while Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning has started every game over the same span.

“It is an injury situation, so it’s different,” Mangini said. “I wasn’t here for all the other ones. I was here for some of them, but not all of them.

“In our situation now, Seneca’s worked with the first group, Seneca’s been here the whole offseason. In the locker room with the guys, the coaching staff, right across board, there’s a real sense of confidence in him. I think everybody’s gotten a chance to see what he can do when he plays.”

After the back-and-forth turmoil last year with Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, Delhomme and Wallace brought stability to the position. They have defined roles and experience in them.

Wallace has a seven-year history as a backup with the Seahawks. He started 14 games – four in 2006, eight in ’08 and two last year – winning five. He’s completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards, 25 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and an 83.1 rating.

In his last start in October against Indianapolis, Wallace set career highs with 33 completions and 45 attempts as he threw for 257 yards and a touchdown.

“Practice has been very crisp,” receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said. “Guys have been responding to his leadership just like they do Jake.

“He’s a great leader, he’s been in this league for a long time and he’s proven he can win.”

From Mangini to coordinator Brian Daboll to the receivers and running backs, everyone says the game plan and the offensive operation won’t change under Wallace.

“We feel comfortable with where he’s at, both in his approach and understanding the game plan,” Daboll said. “He’s excited and if he gets the chance to play, I expect him to go out there and do well.”

“Guys aren’t panicking. We’re not changing the offense around or nothing like that,” Massaquoi said.

Wallace played four snaps at receiver in the opener, with Joshua Cribbs as Wildcat quarterback. At 5-foot-11, Wallace is considered 3 or 4 inches too short to be a big-time quarterback. He makes up for the height disadvantage with a rocket arm and excellent mobility.

Wallace rushed for 912 yards and 15 touchdowns in two seasons at Iowa State, developing the reputation as a runner. But in 48 NFL games, he’s rushed only 54 times. His first rushing score came in his last start.

“You get that label as a running quarterback because you can do so many different things and that’s what people see,” he said. “But it’s not like I’ve been running for 100 yards, 200 yards a game. You’ve got to pick and choose when you run and you’re trying to pick up yardage if something breaks down.

“I don’t have to prove anything. In the back of my mind, I’m not sitting here thinking about, ‘Well, I’ve got to throw the ball to prove I can throw.’ I’ve been in this league long enough that I can just continue to do what I’ve been doing.”

President Mike Holmgren was the Seahawks coach when they drafted Wallace in the fourth round in 2003. Holmgren gave up a sixth-round draft pick in 2011 to acquire him in March.

“In hearing Mike talk about him, even before we brought him in, you could just tell what kind of guy he was and how strongly Mike felt about him and the reasons he felt that strongly about him,” Mangini said.

Holmgren ran the West Coast offense in Seattle, so Wallace has had to adjust to Daboll’s New England/Charlie Weis system. It’s still a work in progress.

“This week helped a lot getting the reps and doing things and calling the plays and working out the timing,” Wallace said. “It was good this week.”

Depending on the ankle, Delhomme could start, back up Wallace or be the No. 3 quarterback. If Delhomme’s the third quarterback, rookie Colt McCoy would serve as the backup.

If Wallace got hurt with McCoy as the backup, Cribbs would likely see more time in the Wildcat.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.

NEXT UP

• WHO: Cleveland vs. Kansas City
• WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m.
• WHERE: Cleveland Browns Stadium
• TV/RADIO: Channel 19; WMMS 100.7-FM