Browns Notes: Thin defense due to virus, injuries ready for Jacksonville

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns will travel to Jacksonville this weekend and face the Jaguars Sunday without a healthy portion of their defense.

Defensive ends Myles Garrett, Porter Gustin and Joe Jackson are on reserve/COVID-19 along with linebacker Sione Takitaki.

Cornerback Denzel Ward is out with a strained calf suffered in last week’s 22-17 win over the Eagles and safety Sheldrick Redwine has been ruled out with a knee injury.

“It is really next man up,” defensive coordinator Joe Woods said Friday. “We were dealing with that same issue the week before with Myles being out. Now, it is just a different issue. We have flexibility across the defensive line so we will be able to move guys inside and outside whenever we need to. We feel comfortable going into this game.

“We are capable on the D line. It is just an opportunity for guys to show what they have.”

With Garrett out against Philadelphia the Browns racked up five sacks – defensive end Olivier Vernon had three of them and a safety earning the veteran AFC Defensive player of the Week honors.

Woods and the Browns have their fingers crossed a repeat performance is in the offing.

“It was great that he got the award for being player of the week,” Woods said. “That is what I told him: ‘Once you do it once, we expect to see it again.’ He has always been capable of doing that.

“You have seen him flashing at times, whether it is just pressuring the quarterback and just missing a sack. It was good. I am happy for him that he had that type of game.”

The defense was unable to practice Thursday due to another positive COVID-19 test and contact tracing needing to be completed.

“A unique week,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said.

Stefanski declined to say who he and Woods will have will step in and where when asked Friday.

Woods had his unit work virtually, a throwback to the offseason.

“It is right before a game, but you just have to deal with the circumstances,” Woods said. “We do not want to be in the business of making excuses. There are a lot of other teams that are dealing with similar issues across the league. We did the best we could. I feel like the guys are prepared and ready to go.”

The one piece of good news the Browns got this week – safety Ronnie Harrison’s knee injury wasn’t severe and he is available this week.

“I knew I was still going to try to come back for this game,” Harrison said. “I already circled this one on the calendar. I am very excited.
This is a great opportunity to show what I have with my new team. Just trying to keep it the next game. Not trying to make too much of it and not get too emotional with it.”

Quite a Steal – Harrison only cost the Browns a 2021 fifth-round draft pick in the August trade with Jacksonville.

Friday, the safety revealed what the organization told him when they shipped him to Cleveland.

“In that meeting that I had when I was informed, they said that they felt that I was the player who they could get the most value for out of the safeties,” Harrison said. “That is what they told me.”

Quite a bargain for the Browns.

Harrison has started five of the nine games he’s appeared in for the Browns. He’s broken up six passes, returned an interception for a touchdown, registered 31 tackles, a sack, QB hit and recovered a fumble this season.

“It has been great,” Harrison said. “I could not even imagine a better place or a better fit for me. I feel comfortable, and I like it here.”

Harrison’s contributions haven’t gone unnoticed.

“He continues to make plays. He is showing up. He is playing through injuries. He is doing all of the things right,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “He is a great addition to our team. He has made plays for us the day he walked into the building. I know it is going to be like a homecoming for him going back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, he can catch a couple picks and celebrate.”

Carrying the Load – With the defense shorthanded, and better weather expected in Jacksonville, all eyes will be on the offense to carry the day.

“It is unfortunate that we do not have these guys on the field, but guys are going to have to step up and step in and do their job at a high level,” Landry said. “As the game goes, who knows how it goes, but as it goes as an offense, we have to do our part and score points. Whatever it comes down to doing as an offense, we will be ready to do.

“It is definitely a team game, and guys are going to step up and make plays.”

Landry, who has yet to score a touchdown this season believes despite an unusual week, they won’t skip a beat Sunday.

“I think we are going to do whatever it takes to win, whether that is on the ground or in the air,” Landry said. “We are happy about the weather change for sure. We will see how it goes, but ultimately, we are just going down there to win the game.”

A 1-2 Punch – Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt delivered the quote of the day on what it’s like having running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to throw at opponents every week.

“It is like having two fighters in your corner,” Van Pelt said. “You have Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, and they both come out in different rounds and you are facing the fresh guy that can knock you out with the homerun punch every time. That is how it really feels. Both of those guys are elite backs. To have them with the ability to keep them fresh at times and spell them with each other, it is a good problem to have for us.”

Injury Report – OUT: CB Denzel Ward (calf), S Sheldrick Redwine (knee); QUESTIONABLE: S Andrew Sendejo (groin), C Nick Narris (ankle); EXPECTED TO PLAY: DT Larry Ogunjobi (ankle), S Jovante Moffatt (illness), LT Jedrick Wills (illness), RT Jack Conklin (knee), S Ronnie Harrison Jr. (knee), RG Wyatt Teller (calf), C JC Tretter (knee), CB Kevin Johnson (finger), WR Jarvis Landry (hip)