After back-to-back close losses and an array of injuries, the Browns head to the nation's capital this weekend in search of their first victory of the season. And head coach Hue Jackson has made sure the team has stayed locked in for Sunday's game against Washington.
"That is one of my jobs is to make sure that our team is focused on what we need to do, which is play a game every Sunday," he said Friday. [
"That's the most important job, one of them, that I have is just making sure that we don't get caught up in any distractions, and our team leaders, I think we have done a good job of doing that. The guys have had a really good week of practice. They have been focused. They have worked hard. That is a tribute to our coaches and our players. We are looking forward to playing this Sunday."
Hope for Haden to play
After missing last weekend with a groin strain, the Browns have listed cornerback Joe Haden as questionable, though the coaching staff is hoping to have the two-time Pro Bowler ready for Washington.
"We hope to have Joe, whether it is on a limited basis or a 60-play game," Horton said. "We expect him and we hope for him to play."
Safety Ibraheim Campbell is also listed as questionable while starting nickel Tramon Williams Sr. is doubtful for Sunday after suffering a shoulder injury against the Dolphins.
Also still out are quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, rookie receiver Corey Coleman, rookie defensive end Carl Nassib, center Cameron Erving, outside linebacker Nate Orchard and rookie tight end Seth DeValve.
A homecoming for Horton
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton's first NFL job came with the Redskins, when he spent three seasons in Washington as the team's assistant defensive backs coach. And as a "history buff," Horton said the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony had a profound impact on him.
"One of the places that has really touched me, hopefully as a person, is Arlington National Cemetery. If you guys have ever had the chance to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watch what is on display there is truly amazing to watch those soldiers stand guard over the tomb and what they do, the precision," Horton said Friday.
"There is a creed that they have and I copied it because I couldn't recite it by knowledge, but it is the third U.S. infantry regiment and they are called The Old Guard. It is called The Sentinel's Creed. When I was there, I studied it. I read it, and it really touched me. I don't want to do it disservice, but it reflected on me or it meant something to me as a coach, a young coach in Washington, just the words and what I try to really instill as a coach."
Horton, whose father served in the military, said it carries significant weight to him.
"When I read it and when I watch what they do out there and read the creed, it is what I wanted to do as a coach," he said.
"I wanted to respect the integrity of the league and the players and really the fans. Just with the passing of Arnold (Palmer) and then going to Washington this week, it all kind of hit me of just who I am and who I want to be as a coach."
'Can you do it two weeks in a row?'
As they've done through three games, Horton said the Browns will continue to rotate players in and out of the lineup on defense.
"We are trying to play every guy on our team for the most part, and obviously, with the injuries, we are going to play everybody. I think that is a common theme all season long, it will be, and playing the hot hand. We are trying to develop quality players that are going to take this franchise where it wants to go, and when you get production from young players who really were not on our team to start the training camp, it is encouraging," Horton said, referencing the performances of linebacker Corey Lemonier, cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun and defensive lineman Tyrone Holmes, three waiver claims who played big roles last Sunday.
"The challenge is can you do it two weeks in a row? Can you do it all season? We are trying to find those players that are young, budding franchise players, meaning cornerstones for us to build upon and play well week in and week out."
Run game rolling
Behind Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson Jr. and the offensive line, the Browns run game has rolled through three games, ranking fourth in the league in total rushing yards and average yards a game.
"(Crowell and Johnson) are coming along really well. They both had really good outings last weekend. It is a part of the process. We are trying to develop our identity of who we are and how we are going to run the football," running backs coach and run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said. "After the first quarter of the season, it is just starting to show the type of run game that we are going to have and our strengths within that run game. It is coming together nicely. Guys are doing a great job up front. Everyone is doing their part for the success of it."
Wilson said the Browns "knew we had two very capable runners when we first got here."
"Our plan was to develop both of them and see where it all falls at the end, provided that everyone stays healthy, of course, and then see where it goes from there," he said.
"We are pleased with both Crowell and Duke in terms of their development and how they are running the football."