BEREA — The Browns were looking for a greater impact from the fullback position, and tight end Alex Smith wanted a larger role. The desires intersected Sunday and helped pave the way for Trent Richardson’s career-high 122 rushing yards.
Smith has dabbled at fullback in his eight-year career but played the spot full time in the 7-6 win over the Chargers. True fullback Owen Marecic was a healthy scratch.
“I’m hoping this can expand into a bigger role, but just to be involved in the action at all — I have been sitting around for the last six weeks — I was happy,” Smith said Monday.
Smith opened the year as the second tight end behind Benjamin Watson, but suffered a concussion in Week 2 and missed three weeks. Jordan Cameron became the No. 2 tight end, and Smith saw limited action in his return Oct. 14 against Cincinnati and was inactive the next week in Indianapolis.
“I wanted to get Alex back on the field,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I wanted to have a defined role for him because he brings some energy to our team and he was coming back from injury and he actually showed up very well.
“The roster changes each week. You can only put up so many skill players on offense, so that’s why I made the decision basically to switch Alex and Owen for this game.”
Marecic has four drops and no catches this year and hasn’t had much of an impact as a blocker. Smith is about 15 pounds heavier at 258, but at 6-foot-4, he’s too tall for a normal fullback.
“In watching the film today the one thing I noticed is I definitely need to get lower,” he said. “I’ve got to get used to those nuances and techniques. For the most part, I think I have a feel for it and I’ll keep working out at it.”
Smith, who played 22 of the 63 offensive snaps, said he graded out “pretty well” and is working to build chemistry with Richardson. They talked on the sideline to make sure they were seeing the same things on the field.
“I cherish those opportunities to get on the field going into my eighth year,” Smith said. “I don’t take those days for granted. I just want to have some type of impact, whether it’s being energetic or throwing the key block or whatever it takes. I know these days aren’t going to be forever.”
Shurmur said Richardson didn’t reinjure his rib cartilage despite the 24 carries.
“He’s no worse for wear,” he said. “With a running back, if he’s going and the score’s right, that was a game for him to have an opportunity and he showed up pretty well.”
Shurmur acknowledged the conditions weren’t ideal for passing, but felt the offense left yards on the field. Quarterback Brandon Weeden was 11-for-27 for 129 yards and a 55.9 rating.
“I think he could play better,” Shurmur said. “He battled. We’ve all said you evaluate a quarterback, though, based on how he leads his team to victory.”
Shurmur liked that he took a sack late to keep the clock running, and that he was able to call a play when the headset malfunctioned.
“There was about four plays where it went out,” Shurmur said. “Two of which were critical where I (called timeout). Then there was a couple other times in the game when he got a partial and he fixed it and did a good job. So that would be another area where he made improvement.”
The incompletions bothered Shurmur, especially an overthrow toward wide-open tight end Benjamin Watson down the left side. Weeden said he couldn’t get a grip on the ball and shot putted it.
“You’ve got to make that throw,” Shurmur said. “In that case, if I had to be ultra-critical, you take the air out of it and drive it to him. He was wide open.”
Does he get a pass because of the weather?
“No, they don’t get a pass. You don’t give me a pass,” Shurmur said.
MEN AT WORK
Shurmur was going to give the Browns Monday off, but the players objected Sunday in the locker room. Kicker Phil Dawson said the team fared poorly when it was given the day off after the first victory against the Bengals.
“There’s obviously teams in this league that can have victory Mondays and can come out and still perform well,” he said. “The one Victory Monday we got this year, we didn’t respond the right way. Our first day back on Wednesday, practice was not good. So I think guys recognize that.
“Would we like to get to the point where we can handle it? Absolutely.”
The Browns don’t practice on Mondays, but Shurmur said a lot can be accomplished.
“We got the film corrected in a structured setting,” he said. “I think that’s good. It also gives us a little chance to get a little jump on Baltimore and then, of course, we can see where they’re all at physically from the game.
“The fact that they wanted to do it the last week in October says a lot. I’ve been around a lot of other good teams that will do whatever they can to get a ‘see you Wednesday.’ That shows me that there’s a level of maturity there. It shows me that these guys understand the importance of work.”
A BAD MAN
Undrafted rookie Johnson Bademosi (6-0, 200) has stood out on special teams throughout the season, and that continued Sunday when he caught a punt to down it at the 3-yard line to start the fourth quarter.
“Those types of plays in games like that are huge,” Shurmur said. “He’s big, No. 1. He’s fast and he’s been productive. I think that was a terrific play.”
Bademosi had an assist Sunday and leads the team with 10 special teams tackles. He played cornerback at Stanford but knew he would have to make the Browns as a special teamer.
“So me and Coach (Chris) Tabor became very close and I was almost annoying just being next to him the entire time,” he said.
Shurmur said the reverse that lost 20 yards when Joshua Cribbs’ flip bounced off Travis Benjamin would’ve worked.
“I think it could have been a big play,” Shurmur said.
** Smith argued with officials when they didn’t call the Chargers for 12 men on the field. San Diego called a timeout, but the flag should’ve come first and the official told him they missed it.
“He’s a Stanford guy. He can count,” Shurmur said of Smith.
** The Browns have gone 176 offensive plays since committing a turnover Oct. 14 vs. the Bengals.
** The NFL pushed the trade deadline from today at 4 p.m. to Thursday at 4 p.m. because of Hurricane Sandy. The deadline was already moved back two weeks this season to encourage more movement.
The Browns have talked to teams, but a deal isn’t expected.
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