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5 Observations: Browns OL Joel Bitonio could be ready for Ravens game

1. Browns OL Joel Bitonio could be ready for Ravens game

Browns offensive lineman Joel Bitonio practiced for the first time since Cleveland's Nov. 5, loss at Cincinnati and has potentially positioned himself to be back in the starting lineup Monday against the Ravens.

Bitonio has been dealing with an ankle injury that cut his game short against the Bengals and held him out of the Browns' Nov. 15, loss to the Steelers.

"I don't know if he'll do much beyond individual work, but he's been out of the boot and we'll get a chance to see where he is and hopefully have a pretty good feel at the end of today," Browns coach Mike Pettine said before Friday's practice. "Maybe a chance to do some team work tomorrow, and we'll see if he can go."

Pettine said if Bitonio is 100 percent and ready to go, he'll be back in his starting role at left guard. If he's "functional but maybe not 100 percent," Pettine said there'd be a scenario where Bitonio is active but serves as a reserve behind rookie Cameron Erving, who started in his place in the last game.

Bitonio made it clear after Friday's practice if he's deemed fit to play, he wants to be on the field.

"You want to play in as many games as you can," Bitonio said. "That is the next game right now. That is what I am trying to focus on. Do anything possible to get me ready to try to see I can go on Monday."

2. The injury situation

The three Browns players dealing with concussions -- defensive back Joe Haden and wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel -- remained in the league's protocol and did not practice Friday.

The Browns practice once more Saturday before they wrap up their on-field preparations for Monday's game.

If Haden is out against the Ravens, it will mark the sixth game he's missed this season because of an injury. It would be the first for Gabriel and third for Hawkins.

Take a look at the Cleveland Browns roster as of September 1, 2017.

3. 'A battle every week' at cornerback

With Haden potentially out for a third consecutive game, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said the Browns have four different players competing for the starting spot on the opposite side of veteran Tramon Williams.

That group features Pierre Desir, Johnson Bademosi, Charles Gaines and Justin Gilbert. Desir, Bademosi and Gaines rotated at the spot in Cleveland's last game against Pittsburgh while Gilbert was inactive.

"We have four guys that are in a battle that's new every week," O'Neil said. "Whoever performs the best that week of practice are the guys that are going to go out and play for us."

With the three-man rotation at a spot that's typically occupied by Haden, O'Neil said the Browns played more zone than man coverage against Pittsburgh. That's a change from when Cleveland's secondary is at full strength.

"We have adapted as the year has gone on to suit what we have back there," O'Neil said. "A lot of our zones still have man principles within them."

4. Challenge laid out for Travis Coons

Browns kicker Travis Coons is 10 games into his rookie season and has yet to miss a field goal attempt, but he's come up wide on two extra points.

That's not an unusual total for kickers around the league in a season that's seen more missed extra points than the past five combined thanks to the new, longer distance. Only 11 regular kickers are perfect on extra points this season.

Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said he challenged Coons after his second miss of the season at Pittsburgh.

"I have great confidence that he can get that done," Tabor said. "I think there's a stereotype that we say 'extra point,' and I think back last year it's a 'gimme kick.' Really, they should just say 'extra field goal' is really what it is, and that's how we approach it."

5. High marks for Duke

Rookie running back Duke Johnson made his kick return debut against the Steelers, returning two for a combined 52 yards.

As a freshman at the University of Miami, Johnson returned 28 kicks for 892 yards and two touchdowns. His workload on that part of his college team decreased as his work as a running back increased.

Tabor didn't indicate whether Johnson would continue to work in that role against Baltimore, but said the athletic rookie has been all-in for whatever special teams work the Browns want him to do.

"That is the thing I really respect about him that he comes to work each and every day and he always grabs me and says, 'Tabes, I can go out and I can play that spot. I can do that spot,'" Tabor said. "He has been very willing to be a special teams player. That has been nice because obviously, he has been very successful as an offensive player."

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