November 28, 2014

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(UPDATED) Browns Notes: Read option makes early appearance in Kyle Shanahan’s offense

Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, left, talks with head coach Mike Pettine at training camp. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, left, talks with head coach Mike Pettine at training camp. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

BEREA — Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan couldn’t wait to begin installing the read option.

All the quarterbacks took turns running the option Monday on the third day of training camp, the first in pads. In the competition for the starting job, Shanahan called more options for rookie Johnny Manziel than Brian Hoyer, because Manziel ran it often in his two years at Texas A&M.

“Kyle’s offense in Washington was a combination of it, and it was something that he wanted to get in, and get in early,” coach Mike Pettine said. “Certainly, when you have a guy that’s more mobile, when you’re calling plays for him in live situations, you’re going to lean toward an inventory of plays that suit his skill set. I just think, at the end of the day, we’ll see more of that with Johnny than we will with Brian.”

The option was largely extinct in the NFL until the fast few years. With quarterbacks like Washington’s Robert Griffin III, Carolina’s Cam Newton, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, there’s been a resurgence, albeit limited.

Shanahan ran it a lot with the Redskins in 2012 as Griffin rushed for 815 yards. He cut back last year with Griffin coming off knee surgery.

The Browns likely won’t use the option a ton in the regular season, but Pettine and Shanahan like to have it available. They also believe having it in the arsenal affects the preparation of the opponent.

Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas is a fan.

“It’s great,” he said. “It can give you huge gashes, it confuses the defense, it gives them something that they have to work on during the week. Even if you only run it a couple times, they’ll have to spend 15 or 20 minutes during practice every week to try to prepare for it.

“We’ve watched a lot of cutups from when they were running it in Washington, and they had some tremendous gashes and really just had the defense confused. It kinda adds a different element to an offense that a lot of teams don’t have.”

It can also add an element of confusion to the offensive linemen.

“Sometimes it’s hard on us because we don’t know where the ball is,” Thomas said. “So sometimes the biggest plays are the ones where we don’t block anybody or there’s a bust or somebody’s running through free, but that’s the great part of the offense. You don’t need to put a hat on every player in order to get the running back through to the second level and to get a good play. A lot of times there’s guys running free, but because of the misdirection it’s a big hit and the line may not block anybody.”

A PICK FOR THE PICK
Rookie inside linebacker Chris Kirksey, taken in the third round out of Iowa, has impressed coaches with his start to training camp. He caught the attention of everyone in attendance Monday with an interception of Manziel.

“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Kirksey said. “I just dropped back in my zone and kept giving ground and the ball came to me, so I just used my hands and grabbed it.

“Getting a ball picked from Johnny Manziel or any other quarterback, just getting an interception period is showing that I’m making plays out there.”

Kirksey is battling incumbent Craig Robertson for the starting spot next to veteran Karlos Dansby.

“He’s flashed,” Pettine said of Kirksey. “I think he’s got a ways to go, but he’s certainly shown, especially today, why we took him where we did.”

Linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach defended Robertson’s coverage skills, which were criticized often last year, and expects a “great competition.”

“We were real pleased that we got him,” Driesbach said of Kirksey. “He brings a skill set that is unusual because he can play the inside and outside.

“He’s smart, (asks) a million question, a football guy. I love him to death.”

POSITIVE JOE
Thomas greets every season with a fresh, bright outlook. He said there’s a different feeling to the start of this one.

“I think the optimism around this team right now that the fans, the players and the coaches have, it’s probably one of the bigger amounts of optimism that I’ve seen going into the season, based on the talent that we’re building on defense and offense and the drafts Ray Farmer has put together,” he said. “I think there’s a sense that things are starting to click.”

MEDICAL ISSUE
The Browns and the agents for guard Jason Pinkston released a joint statement regarding his absence from camp. He hasn’t been on the field yet, and Pettine said Sunday he was unavailable to practice and his return was uncertain.

“Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Jason Pinkston has not been medically cleared to participate in football activities,” the statement read. “The team has been in communication with Jason and his representatives and will respect their wishes to not provide any further details at this time.”

Pinkston missed 10 games in 2012 with a blood clot in his lung.

ROSTER MOVES
Linebacker Tank Carder passed his physical and practiced for the first time. He’d been out since the offseason program.

** Receivers Charles Johnson and Travis Benjamin were given the day off to rest their surgically repaired knees.

“Given receivers and how much they run, two guys coming off ACLs, we wanted to be cautious,” Pettine said.

** Offensive lineman Chris Faulk was waived. He was undrafted out of LSU in 2013 after tearing the three major ligaments in his knee.

** Tight end Gary Barnidge was activated.

** Kicker/punter Jake Rogers was waived.

NEARLY A COWBOY
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he was close to drafting Manziel with the No. 16 pick. Instead, he chose Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin.

“I want you to know that almost as I was handing in the card, it was that close to putting that Manziel card in. It was that close,” Jones said. “Manziel is special. I know him personally. I know that he is going to be a success in the National Football League, and it was a hard decision. And it is one that I will probably have for the rest of my career to think about.”
The Browns traded from No. 26 to No. 22 to draft Manziel.

NEW GUY
The Browns signed receiver Marlon Moore (6-foot, 190 pounds), who’s entering his fifth season.

He has 19 catches and two touchdowns in 43 games and two starts for the Dolphins and 49ers. Last year, he played in six games with the 49ers and eight games with Miami, catching seven passes for 62 yards.

EXTRA POINTS
Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert, the No. 8 pick in the draft, took a turn returning kickoffs, but Pettine doesn’t see that happening on Sundays. He referred to Gilbert as an “in case of emergency, break glass” return guy.

“I’d hold my breath or watch with 1½ eyes covered if he was returning the kick,” he said.

** The free tickets for camp practices are only available for the sessions Aug. 12 and 13. Capacity has been reached for the rest of the practices.

** Receiver Josh Gordon took reps with the starters after spending much of the first two days with the backups.

** BovadaLV has set the over/under for Browns wins at 6.5. The Bengals are listed at 9, the Ravens at 8.5 and the Steelers at 8.5

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.

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