The Browns are bound to be short-handed on defense when they face one of the toughest QBs in NFL history Saturday in Aaron Rodgers, but that's not going to stop them from going all out to prepare for the two-time MVP winner.
Rodgers is capable of a big game against any defense, and the Browns — who are missing a few key players on the defensive side due to injuries and COVID-19 — are trying to do as much as they can with the players available to stop him.
"It's our responsibility to be able to really narrow our focus on the responsibilities at hand," LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah said. "There are 11 people on the field, and everybody has to focus on their one job to be successful. That's what we're doing, and that's what we're focusing on right now."
DE Jadeveon Clowney, S Ronnie Harrison Jr. and DT Malik McDowell remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list but have a chance to be activated before kickoff Saturday. McDowell has a chance to be activated Saturday no matter what since his 10-day period on the reserve/COVID-19 list will expire.
S John Johnson III was ruled out with a hamstring injury, and DE Myles Garrett is questionable with a groin injury. The Browns also learned Tuesday that DE Takkarist McKinley is out for the season after he suffered a torn Achilles against the Raiders.
It's certainly not optimal to have 48 hours before facing Rodgers, who has 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season. Even though he's dealt with a toe injury for most of the season, Rodgers has been able to uphold his nimbleness in the pocket, and the biggest challenge has always been his QB intelligence and ability to deliver the ball to open receivers.
"I think he is one of the best pure passers I have ever seen," Garrett said. "Definitely one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in my eyes. That just makes me more excited for the challenge to go against someone like that."
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Garrett is hopeful to still play Saturday despite injuring his groin in the fourth quarter of Monday's loss to the Raiders. He hasn't been able to practice this week, but he's committed to doing all he can to be healthy for Saturday and face Rodgers for the first time in his career.
"I haven't practiced, so we will see," Garrett said. "I'm about to give it my all. We have to win out to make the playoffs, and I'm going to play every second of the game that I can."
Garrett, a 2022 Pro Bowler, is putting the onus on himself to elevate the rest of the defense, no matter who's able to play. The Browns sorely need his pass-rushing prowess, which has amounted to a franchise record 15 sacks and has helped him record a sack in 11 of the Browns' 14 games. Having Garrett on the field is always a benefit, but the Browns are prepared to rely on other edge rushers in Porter Gustin, Joe Jackson and — hopefully — Clowney to bring pressure, too.
"I don't have a choice but to be great," Garrett said. "You have to step it up. There is no way around it and no excuses to be made. We have three games. I have to put my very best foot forward and give us a chance to win."
The rest of the defense has to continue to be strong, too, and the group feels as though it can be after it's held opponents to 22 points or less in seven of the last eight games. That's happened not only because of Garrett, but also with big plays from key playmakers in CB Denzel Ward, Owusu-Koramoah, S Grant Delpit and others.
All of those players mentioned are expected to be active for Saturday, which is why the Browns aren't making excuses and expect to play at a high level.
"It takes a whole defensive effort when you play a guy like this," DT Malik Jackson said. "I think we have guys that have been sitting here [chomping at the bit] ready to get out there and show what they have. I don't think we will miss a beat."