BROWNS Mariucci: Garcia getting in a grove
The former 49ers coach and quarterbaack conversed prior to Saturday's exhibition game.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CLEVELAND -- Through the first two games of the preseason, the Cleveland Browns' running game has earned an A.
As for the passing game, well, how about an incomplete?
"We have a lot of things to iron out," said quarterback Jeff Garcia.
Garcia, who signed with the Browns this off-season after going to three Pro Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers, still isn't completely comfortable with the new system.
But he's getting there. Just ask his former coach, Steve Mariucci.
"I am sure he fits well in the system," said Mariucci, who was hired by Detroit two years ago after being fired by the 49ers. "I thought they utilized him in a smart way."
Mariucci talked to Garcia before Saturday's exhibition game in Cleveland, which the Browns won 17-10. Garcia finished 5-of-7 for 55 yards against Detroit, which was missing its starting four defensive backs.
"He said he is enjoying learning a new offense," Mariucci said. "There are some things that are similar to what he has been doing and what he is good at."
Garcia has shown improved mobility over last year's starter, Tim Couch, but he's still had to run for his life on several pass plays. He's been sacked three times in two preseason games despite playing slightly more than a half.
"He is good with his arms and legs," Mariucci said. "The first play of the game was a [quarterback rollout]. That is one of the places he is very good -- outside the pocket. He is very efficient there. His decision-making is excellent."
Garcia is 8-of-12 for 78 yards through two games -- good enough for a 84.7 rating. By contrast, backup Kelly Holcomb is 12-of-18 for 125 yards and an 86.6 rating.
"We're still getting used to one another," Garcia said. "[Saturday] was a step in the right direction, but we're not there. We've got a long way to go before we'll be ready for [the opener against] Baltimore, which has one of the top defenses in the league, if not the best."
Garcia should benefit from an improved running game this season.
Second-year back Lee Suggs has been outstanding this preseason, running 11 times for 87 yards, and third-year back William Green has added nine carries for 47 yards.
If the Browns can maintain that production, it will take a lot of pressure off Garcia.
"It just sets everything up from the play-action pass, to our ability to protect the quarterback," said Browns coach Butch Davis. "So many good things can happen when you run the ball effectively."
And not just on offense. The Browns have struggled with their running game since coming back into the league in 1999, which has put extra pressure on the defense to keep games close.
"Controlling the clock means less time on the field," said defensive back Earl Little, who has been with the Browns since 1999. "That keeps us fresh. It was great to see our offensive line pound the ball [on Saturday]."
Cleveland should get better as the preseason goes on.
Garcia will get more comfortable with the offense -- specifically with rookie tight end Kellen Winslow, who missed several weeks because of a holdout -- and the players will continue to adjust to new offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie.
"We still have some things to iron out," said center Jeff Faine. "But we will keep growing and improving together."
The Browns' next test comes Saturday at Kansas City.
"Kansas City is an outstanding football team," said Davis. "They have a lot of talent. It is a good measuring stick to find out where we are as a football team and organization. It will be a good test."