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5 Observations: Josh McCown knows potency of Rams D-line better than most

1) McCown knows potency of Rams D-line better than most

Josh McCown joked Wednesday there's been one thing that's tied the past three years of his NFL career together.

The Rams.

For the third consecutive season with the third different team, McCown will be behind center in a start against St. Louis. Sunday's game will mark his second in that stretch at Edward Jones Dome and first against the team since it yet again retooled an already strong defensive line.

"The first time it was like two first rounders and now it's five first rounders. They keep just picking those guys," McCown said. "Those guys can stay fresh. When they come in, they can roll in different guys and they can come in and play really hard and that's the thing you have to keep up with.

All four of the Rams' projected starters on the defensive line -- Chris Long, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn -- are former first-round picks. So, too, is reserve Nick Fairley, who was acquired during this past offseason.

"It's a heck of a team now as far as defensively, what we're dealing with because of that talent," McCown said. "Guys get picked in the first round for a reason and it shows up on tape, shows up when those guys are playing."

McCown is 0-2 against the Rams over the past two seasons, but he had one of his best statistical performances against them in 2013. He threw for 352 yards and two touchdowns in the 42-21 loss and followed with 179 yards early last season in a 19-17 loss at Tampa Bay.

"Jeff Fisher is a heck of a coach in my opinion and has done a good job," McCown said. "They've done a good job building that team from when they took it over to now. It's fun to go against them they play hard, they play really hard and obviously very talented."

The best photos of the week, featuring highlights from the game on Sunday, the halftime recognition of Mack and Byner, and the community event on Tuesday.

2) Injury updates

DB Joe Haden (concussion/finger), DB Tashaun Gipson (ankle), LB Craig Robertson (ankle) and TE Rob Housler (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday.

Haden, who has been sidelined since the fourth quarter of Cleveland's Week 5 win at Baltimore, remains in the league's concussion protocol, Pettine said.

The Browns had their roster replenished a bit, though, with the return of rookie DB Charles Gaines (hamstring) and RB Glenn Winston (knee).

"Both of those guys will be a welcome addition to the practice field," Pettine said. "It is great to have them back. We will bring them along slow and see where they are. We will have a period of time to activate them and make a decision on what we are going to do in regards to getting them to the roster if that is the direction we want to go."

Gaines, who re-injured his hamstring during Cleveland's preseason game at Tampa Bay, is on the Browns' injured reserve - designated to return list. He's eligible to return to the active roster in two weeks.

Winston has been out since the start of training camp because of a knee injury and is on the reserve/non-football injury list. Once a player from that list returns to practice, he must be activated within three weeks or he will remain on the reserve list, which means he's out for the season.

3) Bring the noise

Sunday's game will be the Browns only one in a dome this season, and Pettine said it adds a unique noise element to the game.

The Rams are 31st in the NFL in attendance, but it will still be loud enough to require extra preparation, Pettine said. Even a crowd as small as 35,000 inside a dome is louder than most outdoor stadiums, he said.

McCown said there will be an extra emphasis on his silent cadence and other facets of the offense that could be possibly affected by noise.

"We'll have a plan for it," he said, "and I think we'll be fine executing."

4) E.J. Bibbs up next?

Housler's injury could open the door for rookie tight end E.J. Bibbs to be active Sunday against the Rams, Pettine said.

Bibbs, an undrafted rookie who first impressed the Browns as a tryout player in May, made a number of catches during the preseason but has yet to be active this season. He's one of four tight ends on the roster behind Gary Barnidge, Jim Dray and Housler.

Tuesday's signing of linebacker Jayson DiManche could play a role in whether or not Bibbs is active against the Rams.

"Once we get past the minimum position requirements, we will work backward from special teams," Pettine said. "I thought Don Jones did an outstanding job stepping in for us and it being his first week on campus. That is one area where you can have an impact early because there is a lot of carry over between teams with core special teams concepts. That is probably the X factor this week – where is DiManche as far as (special teams coordinator Chris Tabor's) plans – and we will work backward from there."

5) The busiest man of the week is...

Perhaps no one on the Browns will field more questions this week than reserve quarterback Austin Davis, who started eight games for the Rams last season and was on their roster up until early September.

Pettine said Davis would be "real helpful" in the Browns quarterbacks room this week as they prepare to face a Rams defense that is tough up front and forced three turnovers in each of its past two games.

Davis and McCown faced off against each other last season in the Rams' 19-17 victory at Tampa Bay.

"Anytime you have a guy that has been around them as much as Austin has will obviously be helpful," McCown said.

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