The Browns won't have their top defensive leader on the field Sunday for their Week 11 matchup versus the Philadelphia Eagles.
The team was informed Friday morning that Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett would be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and will miss the Browns' next game. Garrett, who missed practice since Wednesday because of an illness, will be out indefinitely until he is cleared.
Cleveland will miss Garrett, who leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks and is tied for the lead with four forced fumbles, but coach Kevin Stefanski feels confident the defensive line has the talent and depth to still find success without the 2017 No. 1 pick.
"We're going to work through it," Stefanski said. "It's 2020. Expect the unexpected. Whoever is available to us, I promise you, they'll be ready to roll on Sunday, and the guys know that."
The Browns defense will look to find other ways to compensate for the damage Garrett is capable of inflicting each game. His presence alone can spoil an opponent's game plan, and his ability to maneuver around blockers has forced quarterbacks to make poor decisions with the football — even if the play doesn't result in a sack.
Not many defenders in the NFL possess the game-breaking talents of Garrett, so replacing him Sunday will be a tall task for defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, who's built the majority of his pass rush and run defense strategies around Garrett and his versatility.
Kiffin is not losing faith in his group. He mentioned Adrian Clayborn and Porter Gustin as the two defensive ends likely to fill the void, and he expects to use a rotation of the duo to open Sunday's game. Clayborn has two sacks and seven tackles this season, while Gustin has made 18 tackles, including a season-high eight tackles recorded against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8.
"They've been playing all year long," Kiffin said. "All it means is that there's more reps. It's hard to manage those guys' reps at times. I'm kind of excited to see these guys do that in their spots and their roles against a quarterback that has been known to hold onto the ball and give us opportunities."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Philadelphia Eagles
Kiffin is right — Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has struggled to avoid sacks this season. He currently leads the NFL with 35 sacks, although the Eagles could have Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz back from an injury for the first time since Week 6 and could increase the workload for receiver Alshon Jeffery after he returned from an injury last week.
A healthy receivers corps for Wentz could lead to quicker throws and less QB pressures, which makes it even more important for the Browns to generate pressure from the trenches. That won't be as easy without Garrett.
"He's a potential Defensive Player of the Year," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. "But the guys behind him have to make a name for themselves, too. Guys have to be at the same level."
The Browns coaches are putting responsibility on themselves to build their Week 11 defensive line in position to be just as dominant. That'll certainly be a tougher task without Garrett, who is already fourth in franchise history with 40 sacks, but the Browns are confident their defensive line won't miss a step.
The expectations aren't going to change. Everyone on the defense will have to step up, and the Browns are confident they can do just that.
"Whenever you're without a player of Myles' caliber, it's our job as coaches to make sure we're putting guys in position to succeed," Stefanski said. "I think we have a defensive line that plays really well together."