Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: What changes are possible on the offensive line after the bye?

There’s no bye week for the Browns Mailbag, which is chock full of your questions after Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.

With Austin Corbett gone who is going to be the backup center? -- Bob R., Novelty

This hasn’t been announced yet, but the likeliest of options would be starting right guard Eric Kush. The veteran played the position a bunch throughout training camp before settling in at right guard and he has plenty of experience at center in his past with other NFL teams. In the event JC Tretter went down with an injury, that would mean two moves would have to follow, as Kush, in this hypothetical, would slide to center and a player such as Wyatt Teller or Justin McCray would play right guard. It’s not ideal to have to make multiple moves when one player goes down, but it’s all about getting the best possible five on the field.

Check out photos of the Browns working during their bye week by team photographer Matt Starkey

What's the status on Wyatt Teller? We traded two picks to Buffalo to get him and I would expect to see him on the field at right guard sooner rather than later, especially considering the recent struggles on that side of the O-line. -- Rick K., Desert Hot Springs, California

Teller saw the field for the first time Sunday when he was forced into action for a snap while Kush shook off an ankle injury. He’s been active for most games and played a role on special teams. He’s a name to monitor in the coming days as the Browns evaluate everything with their offense -- offensive line certainly included.

“I think any time you have a bye week six games in, you obviously assess a lot of different things,” Browns offensive line coach James Campen said Tuesday, “and we are in the process of doing that now.”

Though Teller was a guard in Buffalo, he mostly played on the left side. That, along with learning the terminology of Cleveland’s system, takes some time, but Teller now has six weeks under his belt.

“I think he’s getting closer and closer,” Campen said. “We’ve had him moving from a left- and right-handed stance and that’s more difficult for some. I think he’s getting more comfortable. His knowledge of what we’re teaching here from a schematic standpoint and fundamental standpoint, I think he’s starting to catch up.”

Campen said Teller has also received some practice snaps at tackle. McCray, who was acquired in a trade two days after Teller, also has some versatility at guard and center. They’re among the possibilities Cleveland has at its disposal if it’s decided to shake things up on the offensive line.

“I think Justin does a really good job of being flexible and that certainly helps when you are dressing seven,” Campen said. “I am not going to make any statement or whatever on a bye week. We certainly look at all of that stuff, but the one thing that you do know with a player like Justin you can put him in five spots and that helps when you are dressing seven. I think he has done a relatively decent job with that.”

Hollywood Higgins was suited up for the Seattle game. Why didn't he play? He seems to be Mayfield's "go to" target when getting flushed from the pocket. -- Tom F., Mayfield Heights

Freddie Kitchens went into some detail on this topic earlier in the week. Essentially, the Browns had a personnel grouping that included Rashard Higgins -- who was coming off a knee injury and hadn’t seen the field since Week 1 -- but the situation never came up to use it. As a result, the Browns used just three wide receivers during the entire game. That’s likely not going to happen again.

“The reason why Hig did not play had nothing to do with (Antonio) Callaway,” Kitchens said. “The reason Hig did not play is because we were coming into a bye week and I think one more week will benefit him greatly.”

Is WR D.J. Montgomery still on injured reserve? -- Renee Q., Cumberland, Tennessee

He is. The undrafted rookie was very impressive during training camp and the first part of the preseason before going down with a hamstring injury. As a player on injured reserve, Montgomery is able to attend meetings and be with the team but not participate in practices. Montgomery, for those who might have forgotten, caught a touchdown pass in Cleveland’s preseason opener and amassed three catches for 77 yards the following week against the Colts before suffering the injury.

What is the earliest that QB Drew Stanton and TE David Njoku could possibly return from IR? -- Charles C., Sheridan, Wyoming

Stanton was placed on injured reserve because of a knee injury shortly before the Browns’ Week 2 game against the Jets while Njoku was placed on it one week later. That means Stanton would be eligible to return as early as Week 11, when the Browns host the Steelers for Thursday Night Football, while Njoku would be available a few days later when Cleveland faces Miami. 

Before a player fully returns from injured reserve, they have a 21-day window to practice and prepare before the team decides to fully activate them. It’s unclear whether or not Njoku or Stanton will be one of the team’s two allotted designated players to return from injured reserve, but Njoku has expressed optimism he will have the chance.

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