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Browns’ Williams: ‘We can’t get any worse’

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BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns want to make sure their poor play in a 31-10 opening loss to the New York Jets does not become a habit. Their first chance to turn things around comes Sunday when they host the Tennessee Titans in their home opener in FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Browns led the Jets 7-0 and 10-7, but when things started unraveling in the second quarter, they unraveled quickly. Cornerback Tramon Williams, in his first year with the Browns after nine years with the Green Bay Packers, sensed things going bad on the sideline.

“We can’t get any worse,” Williams said as the Browns turned their attention to Tennessee. “Five turnovers — you’ll lose 100 of 100 games. Any time we made plays we got penalties. It was just bad football.

“A couple circumstances went on throughout the game and then the whole, I guess, feel of the team went down…guys sitting down on the sideline with their heads down. It’s too early for that. We’ve got to come out and play.”

Wide receiver Brian Hartline is also in his first season with the Browns. The Browns lost 11 straight and 16 of 17 openers. The team hasn’t had a winning season since 2007. The only player left from that team is Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, who was a rookie in 2007.

“My opinion hasn’t changed,” said Hartline, who spent his first six seasons with the Miami Dolphins. “I think we can be as good as we want to be. The score was ugly, almost to the point of being embarrassed. We hold ourselves really high, which we should, but there were a lot of opportunities we missed and self-inflicted wounds. We have to get out of our own way and continue to make plays.”

Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes against the Browns. Titans rookie Marcus Mariota threw four touchdown passes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his NFL debut. The Titans at 1-0 have already won half as many games as they did all of 2014.

The first three games — the Jets, Titans and Oakland Raiders — is supposedly the easy part of the schedule for the Browns. But they proved no match for the Jets, largely because they lost four fumbles and threw an interception. They also committed 12 penalties for 109 yards.

Even if the Browns clear up their own mistakes they know they can’t get discouraged if they get off to a rocky start against Tennessee.

“These are grown men,” head coach Mike Pettine said. “They need to understand that clearly we did not play up to our standards, and that’s not acceptable. The things we control in the game that we fell short on, that’s not acceptable.

“But we’re not going to panic. They need to know that, there is a sense of urgency this week. The NFL is a quick turnaround. You have to be able to compartmentalize, as we continually stress. Focus for six seconds for one play and then hit the reset button. When you have adversity strike you can’t let it affect you more than for just that instant.”

The Browns have a history of rebounding from bad openers. They are 8-8 in the second game of the season.

NOTES: QB Josh McCown is recovering from a concussion and did not practice Wednesday but is expected to practice Friday. … QB Johnny Manziel took first team reps but was limited in individual drills because of concern for his sore right elbow. … LB Scott Solomon has a high ankle sprain and could miss four to six weeks. … LB Karlos Dansby is day to day with a foot injury. Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey would start at inside linebacker against the Tennessee Titans if Dansby cannot play. … LT was given a day of rest on Wednesday. He will practice on Thursday when the team is in pads. … DE Randy Starks was given Wednesday as a day of rest.

GAME PLAN: Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will have to be ready with two strategies — one that takes advantage of Johnny Manziel’s legs if Manziel starts and one tailored for Josh McCown if McCown is cleared in the NFL concussion protocol. The Browns would like Manziel to stay in the pocket most of the time, but there will be designed runs that should open passing lanes when Manziel gets outside and the Titans have to account for him.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

–Browns LT Joe Thomas vs. Titans OLB Brian Orokpo.

Orokpo is in his first season with the Titans after six years with the Redskins. He made a splash in his debut with four quarterback pressures on Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. Not giving up a sack to Orokpo won’t be good enough for Thomas. Thomas has to make sure his quarterback, whether it is Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown, has time to throw.

–Browns FS Tashaun Gipson vs. Titans QB Marcus Mariota.

Mariota posted a perfect passer rating last week while throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions against the Buccaneers. Gipson, who led the AFC with six interceptions last year, made one in the opener last week but had it stolen by Jets receiver Brandon Marshall.


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