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5 Observations: Browns D embraces 'next man up' amid latest injuries

The Browns went through their first practice of the week Wednesday in relatively brisk conditions here in Berea.

Consider it a warm-up. Forecasts indicate it will be much, much cooler when the Broncos and Browns kick off Sunday at 1 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Here's what's happening Wednesday of Broncos week.

1) Injuries once again piling up on defense

The Browns had four defensive starters back on the field when they kicked off against the Ravens. Half of that group was back on the injury report while a Pro Bowl player from the unit could miss his second straight game.

Linebacker Scott Solomon was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a knee injury and is out for the season. Cornerback Joe Haden remains in the league's concussion protocol and, by rule, was unable to practice. Safety Tashaun Gipson (ankle), who did not play last week, didn't practice Wednesday and neither did linebacker Craig Robertson (ankle), who has missed the past two games.

The news was better on offense, as Josh McCown (ankle) responded well to treatment and participated in Wednesday's practice. Browns coach Mike Pettine indicated McCown's repetitions could be scaled back a bit to allow the 36-year-old veteran to recover even better.

"It is sore," McCown said. "(Head athletic trainer) Joe (Sheehan) and the guys in the training room have done a great job helping me get back ready to go. Feeling better for sure."

Rookie Nate Orchard and Armonty Bryant have seen increased play of late at outside linebacker. If Haden and Gipson can't play, Pierre Desir and Jordan Poyer are expected to continue their roles as the next men up in a Browns secondary that has dealt with injuries since the start of training camp.

"My reps have pumped up," Desir said. "Just like every time, you have to stay ready."

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2) Broncos banged up, too

Denver also could be without some of its most significant players Wednesday.

The biggest name who could be missing in action Sunday is Pro Bowl outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who is dealing with a back injury. He did not practice Wednesday.

Ware, who is 13th all-time in career sacks, is tied for third in the NFL with 4.5 sacks and is second in quarterback hits (12) through five games.

"We'll just go day-to-day," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's an amazing athlete, we'll see where we're at at the end of the week."

Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (neck), offensive guard Evan Mathis (hamstring), defensive back Aqib Talib (ankle) also did not practice Wednesday.

"I know there is word of them being a little banged up, but they have tremendous depth," Pettine said. "I don't know how much of a factor that will be in the game."

3) No single reason for Browns INT drought

The Browns finished the 2014 season ranked No. 2 in the NFL with 21 interceptions. Through five games, Cleveland has just one, and 18 quarters have elapsed since it happened.

The explanation for why has many variables, Pettine said.

"I know we've had some that we've dropped," Pettine said. "We have a saying in our room, 'You have to catch the ones that are thrown to you,' and we've gotten our hands on some and haven't been able to come down with them. Then it's also a function of the pass rush and getting hands up. A lot of interceptions come on tips and overthrows. We have to do a better job affecting the quarterback or maybe get a hand up to tip a ball or to force an overthrow. If a quarterback feels like he has to throw it out of a well, then a lot of times the ball will sail.

"I know they typically come in bunches, and I know we haven't had leads for significant portions of time in games. You look at a lot of your sacks and turnovers come in the fourth quarter when a team is trailing. We have to do a better job putting teams into those situations."

4) Too much team in McCown to take AFC honor personally

McCown won AFC Offensive Player of the Week earlier in the day Wednesday. His answers to questions about the honor, which came as a result of his 457 passing yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens, included mentions of just about everyone on offense but himself.

"It's just a reflection of the guys and what we're doing and I just happen to be in front of it, but that's everybody," McCown said. "That's really how I feel about that is that's the front five, that's the backs, that's the receivers, that's the tights, that's all of us together and it's just a reflection of our effort and preparation."

5) Kicker connection

Pettine has a little more insight than usual on this week's opposing kicker.

Denver's Brandon McManus is a Philadelphia native and played at North Penn High School. That's where Pettine coached from 1997-2001 before entering the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.

McManus, like Cleveland's Travis Coons, is perfect on the season, going 12-for-12 with four makes from 50 yards or more. Pettine said he recently caught up with North Penn coach Dick Beck and heard all about it.

"He was quick to remind me that I was going up against him this week and that he was 12-for-12 and 4-for-4 over 50 yards," Pettine said. "And I'm like 'Who are you cheering for this weekend?'"

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