One more game until the bye week and, boy, is it a big one.
We're taking four of your questions to kick off Ravens Week.
Why are the Browns not using Rashard Higgins more in the passing game? He usually catches anything within reach. Why did the Browns give up on the run so early against the Patriots? The first drive was 50 plus yards on the ground? — George L., Alberta, Canada
We're getting things rolling with a two-parter!
With Higgins, the Browns didn't play him much against the Bengals in Week 9 but have used him regularly in the past two games. This past week against the Lions, Higgins started and played 53 of a possible 74 snaps. He finished with one catch for 17 yards on five targets. It remains to be seen how he'll be utilized when Anthony Schwartz and Donovan Peoples-Jones return from their respective injuries, but Higgins is certainly a key part of the rotation.
"Rashard is doing a great job," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said last week. "He is doing everything we are asking of him. We may call on him more, to your point, as guys are unavailable. We are just focusing on making sure we are efficient in everything we do – run and pass. We want all of our pass catchers to touch the ball."
As for the Patriots game, you're right the Browns were doing great on the ground on the first drive of the game. I'll disagree with your point that the team gave up on running it, though. On the next three series, the Browns attempted at least one run each time, and the most they gained on the carries were 3 yards, setting up the team with second- or third-and-longs each time. And then, well, the game got out of balance and the Browns had to throw to try to catch up.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Lions in Week 11
Why not use D'Ernest Johnson the same way Hunt has been used with Chubb ? — Jeffrey C., Warren, Pennsylvania
The Browns definitely trended a bit in this direction last week against the Lions. Chubb played a little more than 50 percent of the snaps while Johnson played 26 snaps — most of which coming on third downs and passing situations. He finished with five carries for 26 yards — not quite the numbers Hunt typically produces, but a strong contribution nonetheless. His playing time was similar to what he received Week 9 against Cincinnati and Week 8 against Pittsburgh.
"Every time he is out there, he comes through for us," Stefanski said. "I think that is an indication of the type of teammate he is because he prepares so hard. Whether you want him to play 30 snaps on special teams or carry the ball 30 times, he is going to be ready to go."
When is it likely that both Chubb and Hunt will be back together? — Luis E., Guadalajara, Mexico
It could come as soon as Sunday.
Hunt was designated for return from injured reserve Wednesday and will go through the week of practice — his first since the days leading into Week 6. Hunt said he's optimistic he'll play, and the Browns will monitor his progress as he gets back into the swing of things.
That's huge news for a Browns offense that needs a boost after failing to score more than 20 points in five of its past six games. When Chubb and Hunt are healthy and playing in the same game, the Browns are 12-5 since 2020.
Which cornerbacks have played well, and can they make a difference against the Ravens? — Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia
The Browns have gotten solid play all season from their cornerbacks. Denzel Ward has been playing at a Pro Bowl level all season and has really turned it on in the past few weeks. He's intercepted two passes in the last three games, including a game-changing pick-6 in Cleveland's rout of the Bengals.
"He has come up big for us in the last few weeks, especially making plays on the ball," Stefanski said. "He has to continue to challenge those receivers and very simply do not let your man catch the ball – take your guy out of it."
Ward's running mate at cornerback, Greg Newsome II, has been similarly impressive. He helped the Browns do a heck of a job limiting Bengals star receiver Ja'Marr Chase in Week 9 and, perhaps, did his most impressive work this past week against the Lions. Newsome spent the preseason cross-training at the outside corner spot and in the slot. With Troy Hill sidelined, Newsome was summoned to duty and manned the slot whenever the Browns went into their nickel package. Amon-Ra St. Brown was the only Lions wide receiver to catch a pass Sunday, and he finished with four receptions for 18 yards.