August 26, 2014

Leaders emerging in Cleveland Browns locker room

“I can’t say enough about the guys and what they’ve been able to do, how focused they’ve been. You’re really seeing an identity develop of this team. It’s a lot of guys going out to do their job, playing together. They’re relentless, they don’t flinch. There’s great leadership that you’re seeing from some guys like the D’Qwells and Joe Thomases, but even the Joe Hadens and the Phil Taylors and younger guys like that, stepping up. You know, Davone Bess, who quietly goes about doing his job and sets such a good example for guys. So there’s a lot of positives. I can’t say enough about the guys in the locker room and how they feel about each other and how hard they play for each other.” – Rob Chudzinski

Joe Thomas

On second-and-nine, with the Buffalo Bills already ahead seven to nothing, Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer scrambled out of the pocket and took off towards the his team’s sideline. He got a block from running back Willis McGahee and found the first down marker before he started his slide.

Unfortunately for the Browns, Hoyer was hit as he slid, and his legs buckled underneath him.

Let’s face it, we’ve seen teams fold when this kind of thing happens. You don’t have to look much further than the team across the field this very Thursday night. The Bills were not very good when quarterback E.J. Manuel went out with a knee injury of his own.

But for the Browns, this goes deeper than just D’Qwell Jackson talking to the defense after falling behind 10-0. It goes beyond Brandon Weeden saying something in the huddle that “you probably couldn’t print” when he came in the game after Hoyer went out.

When the team traded first-round draft pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts, the big fear in Cleveland was that the front office was giving up on the season. It was a given that the players would continue to play, but the fear was that this would be seen by the players as another every man for himself season. It turns out the message received by the team was exactly the opposite. Instead, they rallied together and realized no player is bigger than the team.

Brandon Weeden didn’t pull a Josh Freeman when the team went with Brian Hoyer. Neither did Jason Campbell for that matter. They said the right things and continued to prepare as if they were going to play. Weeden got his chance to get back in the saddle a little quicker than he probably expected. His teammates were there to back him up. That’s what a team does. They sacrifice the individual for the sake of the team.

D’Qwell Jackson holds a players-only meeting every week. He isn’t second guessing the coaching staff. He’s helping them.

Joe Thomas was the voice of reason in the locker room after the win against the Bengals. “It’s two games. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Thomas said when asked about leading the division.

Joe Haden and T.J. Ward are the leaders of the secondary. This season they aren’t trying to be the leaders. (There is no #TeamDBSwag this season as opposed to previous years.) They are leading by preparing and being the best they can be individually, but making sure the rest of the group has the support they need to get better.

You see it in the way D’Qwell Jackson and Joe Haden are proud of the progress Buster Skrine has made this season. You hear it when you talk to guys like Jordan Cameron who is quick to give credit rather than take it.You see it in guys like Paul Kruger, who came to the team as a high priced free agent but has anything but a ‘look at me’ personality. He’s a guy that stops what he’s doing in order to wish rookie Barkevious Mingo a very genuine happy birthday after two bruising games in less than a week’s time.

Offensive tackle Joe Thomas called Thursday’s win  “a good team win”.  “We have a lot of talented players and we play well together as a team,” Thomas continued. “When the offense isn’t playing well, the defense is picking it up. If our offense or defense isn’t doing anything, the special teams come up with big plays. It was just a good team win all around.”

As player after player goes down for this team, other players have stepped up. Hoyer goes down and Weeden stepped back in and lead the team to big scores. Desmond Bryant went down and rookie Armonty Bryant stepped in and had a sack. Barkevious Mingo had several hits on the quarterback and a huge hit on a receiver over the middle filling in for Jabaal Sheard and Quentin Groves. Chris Ogbonnaya was hurt and Willis McGahee stepped in to take over the bulk of third down duty.

These are things that the team is supposed to do, but for once it seems like the Browns are actually doing them. You have to give credit to the coaching staff of course, but much of the credit should go to the leaders of this team. Guys that have seen things go south here before and are stepping to the plate to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

  • mgbode

    this is great to point out. meant to do it on the winners/losers thread too, but it applies across the board for guys like Mingo.

    yes, it was Mingo’s fault that Spiller broke the long TD. but, despite his draft status, he’s not supposed to be out there setting the edge this early in his rookie season. Guys like Aldon Smith and Von Miller were just sent to rush the passer early and often. He is being forced into full responsibility early and, while he’s the weak link on rush-defense, he’s likely to learn a ton from this experience. even when Sheard is back, there’s a good chance Mingo will now be a better overall player.

    same goes for guys stepping up last night like Armonty Bryant (who we have to be really careful with now. he showed that explosiveness last night and if we PS him, then someone is going to swipe him from us IMO).

    and on and on it goes. nature of the NFL.

  • Harv 21

    Lack of leaders who still can play (and thereby have the respect of the younger players) is something that has been missing for years.

    This is great if it’s true. I’m always a little suspicious when beat writers proclaim a guy a “clubhouse leader” as it sometimes turns out to mean that he’s an older guy who consistently provides good quotes to the press, even after losses and often about leadership. [and when a younger teammate is approached for confirmation that this guy's a role model, what is he supposed to say?]. If Chud or Tito say a guy’s a leader, great, better than hearing it from a writer who’s filling a storyline template. And we have heard Haden and Ward fiercely defending Skrine since the start of camp.

  • vespo09

    Speaking of Bryant, has anyone heard if Desmond Bryant is ok? I never heard anything after they took him to the hospital.

  • mgbode

    not sure if it was Chud-mandated or not, but JoeT & DQ have been much more vocal to the media than they had ever been under previous regimes.

  • mgbode

    report earlier today said he was out of the hospital and expected to be okay by our next game. we’ll see.

  • vespo09

    Fingers crossed. He’s been great – hopefully he’s ready after the mini-bye.

  • mgbode

    more info (and definitely was scary to hear about, glad he seems okay):

    http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/2013/10/cleveland_browns_desmond_bryan_3.html

  • Scott C. Young

    Bryant’s motor last night was awesome to watch. Great energy closing out the game

  • SDA

    I think this was echoed in the other article about the Bills complaining about our attitude towards knocking out their Quarterback. for once We defended an injured player. I know it was his leg but it easily could have been another concussion the wat Hoyer was hit. If you watch the replay he he pulled his arms back and went purposely for the helmet to helmet. Should have been a flag and a fine. All the years of watching cribs get knocked out of games and no response by us has angered me. I love this attitude we are bringing. And I give a lot of credit to Chud. Looking like a great hire!!

  • Jose Hose

    In any event, there seems to be a positive attitude in the clubhouse, something that has been missing for a long time. Winning surely helps that, but Chud seems to be genuine about his positive feedback and in his communication with players, something that stands in sharp contrast to Shurmur.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I’ve long thought that the best teams go through a nice amount of key injuries early on in their runs, which allow the backups and others to gain valuable experience. How much better are guys like Billy Winn and John Hughes with all that playing time last year? Sure, Teshaun Gipson may not be the long-term S, but won’t it be nice to have him on the bench next year knowing he can fill in as needed? Etc. etc.