Ravens

Quick Links

Browns ink QB Johnson; Weeden, McCoy miss practice

Browns ink QB Johnson; Weeden, McCoy miss practice

BEREA, Ohio (AP) The Browns are down to their last game and a third-string quarterback. With major change looming, they're ending another losing season in disarray.

With both quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy missing practice Wednesday with right shoulder injuries, Thad Lewis took first-team snaps during Cleveland's workout. Rookie running back Trent Richardson remained out with a sprained left ankle.

Elevated from the practice squad Monday, Lewis could make his NFL debut in Pittsburgh on Sunday. If it happens, his backup could be Josh Johnson, signed as a free agent Wednesday.

``If I get the start, it will be wonderful,'' Lewis said. ``I will be living out a childhood dream.''

While the 25-year-old Lewis is excited, disappointed Browns fans are anticipating more impactful changes. New owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner have promised to revamp the organization. That could include the coaching staff.

Kick returner Josh Cribbs knows beating Pittsburgh - no matter who plays quarterback - couldn't hurt coach Pat Shurmur's future.

``A win means a lot for the city and the coaching staff as well,'' said Cribbs, who has had three head coaches in eight years in Cleveland and doesn't seem to favor more moves.

``Every year you have a constant rebuilding process, not a good recipe for successful football,'' he said.

A new quarterback Sunday could come from sheer necessity. McCoy's injury was revealed Wednesday, though he made no mention of it Sunday in the wake of the 34-12 loss in Denver.

McCoy replaced Weeden in the second half against the Broncos and was sacked four times in his limited appearance. Shurmur said he didn't know if one particular play caused the problem.

``Colt came in and told us he was sore,'' Shurmur said. ``He came in and got treatment.

``The injuries to Brandon and Trent are not as severe as you might have thought. We'll see how they come back. If they are healthy and can go, then of course they'll play. If they can't, I have no problem ruling them out.''

Shurmur also did not rule out McCoy, who has not started since sustaining a concussion in Pittsburgh on Dec. 8, 2011.

When the Browns (5-10) play the Steelers (7-8), they will be seeking their first season series sweep since 1988. It would be a pleasant cap to Cleveland's 11th season of 10-plus losses in 14 years.

They could be trying to do it with Lewis in command. He would be the 21st passer used by the Browns since 1999.

``Hmmm,'' said Lewis when asked when he last started. ``That would be college, (against) Wake Forest in 2009.''

The 25-year-old from Duke was on St. Louis' practice squad in 2010 when Shurmur was a Rams assistant. The Browns claimed him on waivers in September 2011. He has gone through the paces at every offensive position except line play on the scout team for two years.

``Whatever the coach wants me to do,'' he said. ``Right now, my job is to take reps with the 1s.''

Shurmur played Lewis quite a bit in exhibition games this past summer. He added that Johnson, who played 26 games for Tampa Bay over three seasons, is familiar with the Browns' West Coast offense, but needs time to learn the entire playbook.

``Whoever's in there I trust,'' Shurmur said. ``(Johnson) has crossed path with a lot of our concepts. We felt like he would be a good guy to bring in. If he has to go in, I'm sure we'd have to pare it way down, which is the case when you bring in a guy with just a couple of days of preparation. But, we'd be confident he can go in and at least execute.''

Johnson took safety Usama Young's roster spot. Young likely will need thumb surgery, one week after cornerback T.J. Ward went out for the season with a knee injury. Cornerback Sheldon Brown sustained a concussion in Denver and the Browns have signed defensive back Jordan Mabin to the practice squad.

Shurmur is holding auditions to start at safety. ``(Ray) Ventrone, (Eric) Hagg and then (Tashaun) Gipson will practice today,'' he said.

Gipson missed the Denver game with a foot injury, but said he is fine. He's eager to play Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was hurt and missed the first meeting in Cleveland, a 20-14 Browns win on Nov. 25.

``Going against Big Ben, that's a talent I haven't faced yet as a rookie,'' said Gipson, signed as an undrafted free agent in May. ``I want to do it. It's a good test.''

NOTES: Johnson started five games for the Buccaneers after being a fifth-round choice in 2008, throwing for five touchdowns and 10 interceptions overall. He was in San Francisco's camp this summer. ... TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) also did not practice. ... Some players bolted outdoors after indoor practice for a brief, spirited snowball fight in a winter storm.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

What lessons the rest of the NFL should, and shouldn’t, take from the league’s top rushing teams

derrick-henry-ryan-tannehill-titans-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

What lessons the rest of the NFL should, and shouldn’t, take from the league’s top rushing teams

A glance at the NFL over the final two months of the season gave an interesting glimpse where the league was headed. 

The Ravens, the NFL’s best offense, were a predominantly rushing team. They rushed for a league record 3,296 yards in the regular season and were the league’s top regular season team. 

The Titans rode running back Derrick Henry all season, which led to him finishing as the league’s leading rusher. Over the final nine games he rushed for an average of 24.6 carries per game, including 30 or more carries in three of the team’s final four games. 

And most recently, the 49ers won the NFC in dominating fashion over the Packers with just eight passing attempts and 42 rushing attempts. 

With a handful of the league’s best rushing teams advancing in the playoffs, there appeared to be a change in the way teams attacked defenses in the NFL.

But those stats have been a bit misleading for the crowd that wants to establish the run for the sake of establishing a ground attack. What the Ravens and Titans did was make rushing the football more efficient than any other team in the league. 

Baltimore rushed for 5.5 yards per carry in the regular season, half-a-yard more than any other team in the league. They were only one of three teams to surpass the five yard-mark — one other team was the Titans. 

When compared to passing stats across the league, however, none of the qualified quarterbacks had worse than a six-yard average when passing the ball. Speaking strictly from the numbers, passing is still more advantageous than rushing the ball, no matter what teams that advanced far in the playoffs accomplished. 

What the Ravens and Titans do have, however, are two athletes that are unique in the NFL. Lamar Jackson was the league’s best rushing quarterback of all time and Henry led the league in total rushing yards. 

So the Ravens and Titans didn’t reinvent the wheel and show the NFL the ground game was more effective, but instead showed the league to lean into the special talents that both teams had. 

While the Titans were clearly better when Henry had his best days on the ground, there’s not a direct relationship to more Henry touches equaling a better day for the Titans. 

When the Ravens fell behind 14-0 to the Titans, Henry had just seven rushes for 28 yards on the ground. Down the stretch, he rushed 23 more times for 167 yards — a 7.26 yard average. Essentially, the Titans used Henry most effectively when they had already scored the winning points. 

The same can be said for the 49ers in the NFC Championship, who barely used Jimmy Garoppolo's arm. But when Raheem Mostert averages more than seven yards per carry, it’s difficult to get away from the run. 

So while it might seem that simply running the ball got teams to the playoffs, and championship games, it was the fact that they were able to run the ball more efficiently than other teams across the league. Rushing attempts weren’t the reason those teams won, but how they used those rushing attempts instead.

And when Jackson and Henry are leading the charge, it’s hard not to give them the ball.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

Former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees announces retirement

dean-pees-ravens-retirement-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees announces retirement

Former Ravens and Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees announced his retirement from coaching Monday afternoon, just a day after Tennessee lost in the AFC Championship Game to Kansas City.

Pees, at age 70, had just finished his 47th year of coaching. He had previously been a coordinator for the Titans, Ravens and Patriots at the NFL level. He began coaching at the University of Findlay (OH) in 1979 as a defensive coordinator where he rose through the college ranks. 

Pees was in Baltimore from 2010-2017, where he started as a linebackers coach and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2012. He won Super Bowl XLVII with the Ravens.

During his time as a coordinator, the Ravens ranked in the top 10 of scoring defenses three times, where he saw franchise greats like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed end their careers.

Pees’ defense in Tennessee this season stiffened down the stretch, as it allowed just 25 total points in the first two playoff games against New England and Baltimore. The Titans lost 35-24 to the Chiefs on Sunday.

In 10 of his 12 seasons as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, Pees led his defenses to a top 12 finish in points allowed.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE RAVENS NEWS: