NEWS

Browns notebook: Peek at his peak

Steve Doerschuk

Ryan Tucker got a sneak peek in practice.

Tucker, who has protected quarterbacks for 10 NFL seasons, said before the Browns preseason opener that Antwan Peek is one of the best-looking pass rushers he has seen.

“He’s amazing,” Tucker said. “He’s got the whole package.”

Yet Peek was underwhelming in four seasons with the Texans. He packed for Cleveland after producing 10 career sacks and 110 tackles.

In his first game as a Brown, though, fans got that glimpse Tucker was talking about.

He blew through Kansas City’s line on the Chiefs fourth snap, making a sack that caused a fumble and set the tone for an encouraging night of defense.

Peek got a little bit lost last year as an undersized 4-3 end stuck in a backup role. He seems certain he can tap his potential as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

What difference does the switch make in pass rushing?

“In the 4-3,” he said, “you have to play tight to the tackles and watch for runs. There’s more adjusting to do. I like the 3-4 because I can just go.

“It’s a comfort thing. I’m a free rusher.”

Peek lines up outside the offensive tackle and waits for the tackle to plant his hand before the snap.

“When they give away the hand,” Peel said, “I know whether I want to go inside or inside.”

Peek broke through as a third-year pro in 2005, when he had six sacks playing in a 3-4 scheme. The Texans switched to a 4-3 in 2006. He made just one sack. He seems energized by his new city and his old scheme. You needn’t go far to hear camp buzz about double digit sacks, especially with opponents needing to account for 2006 rookie standout Kamerion Wimbley.

But can Peek play the run? That’s the big question now that Peek has replaced injured Willie McGinest. He must prove he’s not the latest hole in a run defense that’s been bad for years.

“I think I’m an every-down player,” Peek said. “I take pride in stopping the run, in being aggressive and physical.”

Head Coach Romeo Crennel thinks Peek can get back to the comfort zone in which he played at the University of Cincinnati. He was the No. 67 draft pick in 2003, two years before Charlie Frye was the No. 67 pick.

“Antwan was an outside linebacker type when he came out,” Crennel said of the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder. “He was one of those tweeners. Some people didn’t think he was quite big enough for a 4-3 end.”

Others wondered if he was agile enough to be an NFL linebacker. Peek, though, was convinced he was on the rise as an outside linebacker in 2005.

“My year-to-year production kept getting better,” Peek said. “We played a 3-4 in 2004, when Todd Grantham was here. Then we stayed in the 3-4 after Todd went to Cleveland as coordinator in ‘05.

“I had my best year. Just when that happened, everything changed.”

Peek admits he was “frustrated.”

If Peek is ever going to do anything special, it’s time to get started. He will turn 28 on Oct. 29. Might he take out his frustrations on his old team -- the Browns face Houston on Oct. 29?

If he plays the way the Browns hope, his frustrations will wash away before the leaves start changing.

HE’S ... BACK?

Former No. 1 pick Tim Couch’s last regular-season game for the Browns -- or any team -- produced a 22-14 win over the Bengals on Dec. 28, 2003. Bidding to make a 53-man roster for the first time since that moment, Couch ran two series Saturday, after Byron Leftwich and David Garrard took the Jaguars through the early part of the third quarter.

After two handoffs, Couch threw a 12-yard completion to rookie Mike Walker. He came back to earth on the next play, getting sacked by Dolphins rookie Steve Fifita for a 10-yard loss.

On third and 23, he dumped off a pass for a one-yard loss.

Couch began his second series on his 3. After a run gained nothing, he threw incomplete deep over the middle. A pass interference on a short incompletion bailed him out, but Alvin Pearman lost three yards on a run, Couch misfired a short pass to Pearman, and he was sacked by rookie seventh-rounder Abraham Wright to end his night.

It’s a long way back to the penthouse.

EYE ON QUINN

If, as expected, Brady Quinn takes his first snap as a Brown in the second half, he’ll be playing alongside guys fighting for roles -- or to make the team.

By the time Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson finished their shifts against Kansas City, Ken Dorsey was left to operate with a patchwork cast.

Third-string running back Jerome Harrison ran for two yards on the first play. No. 3 fullback J.R. Niklos caught a dump pass on second down.

Travis Wilson, the No. 5 receiver, was the intended receiver on a third-down incompletion. A young, backup line was on the field, except for Ryan Tucker, but he was struggling to learn the ropes at a new position, right guard.

On Dorsey’s next series, Chris Barclay, Buck Ortega, Steve Sanders and Efrem Hill -- none of whom has ever touched a ball in a real game -- did against the Chiefs. This is what Quinn has to look forward to.

“The biggest thing is just trying to find a flow with the guys in there,” Quinn said. “Being a quarterback, you have to learn how to manage the team, not just know how to run the plays.

“You have to understand the guys and their personalities and how to get them to play at their best.”

Quinn, of course, lost 12 days of understanding as a holdout.

EXTRA POINTS

- On his first NFL catch with a team other than Cleveland, Dennis Northcutt caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Jacksonville’s Byron Leftwich. It was Northcutt’s only catch.

- Quinn declined to guess who is winning the race between Frye and Anderson. “My opinion doesn’t matter. I’m just a rookie.”

Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com.