A number of Browns starters weren’t able to practice Wednesday as the team began its preparations for Sunday night’s showdown with the defending NFC champion Rams.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey (chest), right tackle Chris Hubbard (foot), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (ankle), safety Morgan Burnett (quadriceps), safety Damarious Randall (concussion), tight end David Njoku (concussion/wrist) and linebacker Adarius Taylor (ankle) did not participate in Wednesday’s practice, which began roughly 36 hours after the team’s Monday Night Football victory over the Jets
“We are still kind of playing it by ear,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. “We will see how those progress during the course of the week.”
The Browns got a handful of reinforcements with the return of running back Dontrell Hilliard, who was out Monday with a concussion, and wide receiver Rashard Higgins, who missed the game with a knee injury and was limited Wednesday. The Browns have had to fill multiple spots on special teams along with their pass-catching running back role during Hilliard’s absence and have missed Higgins as a reliable option as the third wide receiver.
“We like good football players,” Kitchens said. “We feel like Hig is a good football player.”
Without Njoku, who took a nasty fall when he was up-ended in Monday’s first quarter, the Browns are a little thin on experience at tight end. Veteran Demetrius Harris played the lions’ share of snaps after Njoku’s injury while Pharaoh Brown and Ricky Seals-Jones saw increased playing time.
“David is a good player so definitely him being limited right now or whatever presents problems for us,” Kitchens said. ‘This game in the National Football League is about attrition so you have to deal with it on your side and other teams do, as well. We will get the next guy in there and make sure he knows what to do. When somebody goes down, that is another opportunity for someone else so we will see how it goes.”
Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Rams Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey
-- Sunday’s matchup will be the toughest yet for the Browns’ cornerbacks, as the Rams boast one of the best wide receiver trios in the league with Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.
“I think Denzel is continuing to try and get better,” Kitchens said. “He was better in the second game than he was in the first, and that is what I want to see. I want to see a gradual increase in his competitive nature on playing the ball and being around the ball. The more you are around the ball, the more plays you are able to make. I thought he did a better job this week, and I expect better from him this week than I did the previous week, starting today.”
Williams, the Browns’ second-round pick, saw an increase in playing time from Week 1 to Week 2, seeing the field on all but one snap against the Jets.
“I thought Greedy played pretty well,” Kitchens said. “There are a couple things he would like to have back, but overall, he did a nice job. I was pleased with Greedy. He competed. He competed every snap.”
-- Kitchens liked what he saw from the Browns’ rookie specialists Monday, and he wants more of it Sunday.
Punter Jamie Gillan won AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after putting five of his punts inside the 20-yard line. Austin Seibert bounced back nicely from missing an extra point Week 1 by connecting on three field goals, including two from 40+ yards, and both of his extra points.
“It is not about what you have done. It is about what you are going to do,” Kitchens said. “That is what we expect out of him. We just want it through the uprights, and he is doing a good job. Those guys kind of get lost in the shuffle sometimes of working and trying to get better, and they are doing the same thing that everybody is doing. They are doing the same as our tackle, our quarterback and our safety. They are doing the same thing. They are out there trying to get better every day, also. They are always working on something.”