BEREA — D’Qwell Jackson was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Steelers. Jackson had nine tackles and forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. He was a big reason the Browns held the Steelers to just 49 rushing yards and turned the ball over on fumbles four times.
“It’s a great honor for him and our defense,” Pat Shurmur said. “He had a great game and has played well.”
Shurmur said that Jackson is not only a captain in name but a real leader on the team.
“Like in baseball, you have to be strong up the middle,” Shurmur said. “He communicates and functions in the building and has been a good leader for our guys.”
Shurmur admitted the return of Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin has really helped Jackson and the other linebackers.
“Any middle linebacker will tell you when you have big guys taking on blockers, it helps you,” he said. “Any middle linebacker wants two all pro guys in front of them. When you have your two starting defensive tackles back that brings some synergy throughout the whole team.”
All in all, the Browns forced eight turnovers against the Steelers, which is the most by an NFL team since 2001 and the most by the Browns since 1989. This is the first time Jackson was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week and the first Browns player to win the honor since David Bowens did so during the 2010 season. Jackson was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for his play in September 2011.
“I think playing against Pittsburgh, it was just they saw the intensity from the older guys and the coaching staff of how important this game is regardless of where we are in the season,” Jackson said after the Steelers game. “I think all the guys played well. We did enough to win the game. Being able to create, I believe it was eight turnovers. I’ve never been a part of a defense that ever has done that. I was a great tough game, and that was something we expected going into it.”
Jackson thinks the Browns are close to breaking out and hopes the win over the Steelers is the turning point for this team.
“Right now, we’re on the right track,” Jackson said. “Last week, I spoke about we lost the last five out of eight (games) by seven points or less. It wasn’t anything that we weren’t doing, but one thing we focused on out of those losses was finishing the fourth quarter.”
Jackson, in his seventh season, leads the Browns with 85 tackles while also having three sacks, two interceptions, five passes broken up, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
Currently, the Browns are plus eight with 25 takeaways good for third-best in the AFC. Jackson said there’s a reason the Browns have more takeaways as a defense this season and hopes to keep it going.
“I think it attributes to a lot of guys spending extra time individually,” he said. “(We’re) just talking more on the field. We were so close (to winning) in these last few weeks that we were a play away from us possibly winning the game. It was finally a good feeling to get over that hump. We’ve got another game (with the Raiders) and we’ve got a few more games.”
Shurmur said that QB Brandon Weeden was cleared and returned to practice and is expected to be ready to start against the Raiders.
“I’m sure you’re interested in the quarterback,” Shurmur said in his opening statement. “He was cleared to practice and we will move forward with the anticipation that Brandon will be ready to go.”
Weeden left in the final moments of the Steelers game with a head injury and was being observed under the NFL’s concussion protocol.
“At this point, he’s healthy and you get him ready (to start),” Shurmur said. “He wants to go play just like he does every week.”
Shurmur says he sees improvement from Weeden each week.
“I think his play has improved every week,” he said. “Every once in a while, quarterbacks who have been in the league a while will give you a head scratcher. You want to coach that out of their game.”
On the season, Weeden has 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. However, since the first game in which he threw no touchdowns and four interceptions against the Eagles, he has 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Shurmur says what he is most concerned with from Weeden is leading the Browns to wins.
“I don’t have a problem with his mental toughness,” he said. “What’s important for Brandon is to play a style that leads us to wins. His game needs to constantly improve and strive to get us in the end zone and help us win football games. He’s had good games and games that weren’t so good and he’s battling through it.”
Shurmur said the interception he threw against the Steelers was the right decision.
“You never want him to force the football,” he said. “You want him to make good decisions. On the interception last week, he made the right decision, the ball was tipped. It’s extremely important the quarterback makes good decisions.”
Gruden Rumors Refuted
There was a report that said that new Browns owner and big University of Tennessee booster Jimmy Haslam offered ESPN analyst Jon Gruden a part of the Browns ownership team by accepting the head coaching position of the Volunteers.
Team spokesman Neal Gulkis issued a statement from the Browns early Wednesday.
“Jimmy Haslam has no involvement in the University of Tennessee head coaching search, and the report that Jon Gruden would potential have an ownership stake in the Browns is completely erroneous.”
The Browns are trying to do something they haven’t done since early in the 2011 season and that is win two games in a row this week when they travel to play the 3-8 Raiders. The Browns have lost 12 games in a row on the road, ironically, starting with the last trip to Oakland when they lost 24-17 on Oct. 16, 2011.
The Browns defeated the Colts (27-19) and Dolphins (17-16) in the second and third weeks of the 2011 season before going 2-11 the rest of the season to finish 4-12. After the Browns play the Raiders, they return to host the Chiefs (1-10) and Redskins (5-6).
Shurmur was asked what the Browns need to do to snap the streak.
“Don’t lose on the road,” he said. “We have the opportunity to go on the road and win a game.”
DE Juqua Parker was named the fourth captain for the Raiders game. Parker signed with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent from the Eagles. He has 17 tackles, including three sacks, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Parker is in his 12th NFL season and is tied for the team lead in sacks.
Last week, DB Dimitri Patterson (ankle) was on the field running on the side. Shurmur said prior to practice Wednesday that Patterson will be practicing, but declined to give any more information. Patterson has missed the last six games.
“He’ll be back practicing today,” he said. “I’ll give you that.”
Patterson was on the field practicing during the time the media was allowed to watch.
However, WR Josh Cribbs (shoulder) and DB Usama Young (concussion) were not on the practicing. Shurmur said that Young hasn’t been cleared to practice as of yet.
“He’s not as far along as Brandon (Weeden),” Shurmur said.
Tight End Production
The Browns tight ends have scored three touchdowns in the last two games. TE Ben Watson caught two touchdown passes against the Cowboys and TE Jordan Cameron caught his first NFL touchdown pass against the Steelers.
“I think the production has been good,” Shurmur said. “The production has been pretty consistent and has helped us a lot.”
Shurmur credits Cameron’s development in part to Watson.
“Ben has displayed a lot of leadership behind the scenes,” Shurmur said. “I would give a little credit to Ben for Jordan’s improvement.”
Carder Spoken To
LB Tank Carder tweeted an anti-gay slur from his Twitter account and deleted it on Tuesday and offered an apology.
Shurmur said he spoke to Carder about the incident.
“We’ve addressed the situation,” Shurmur said. “It was very inappropriate and not something we condone.”