For the first time this season, there's a chance the Browns defense will be at full strength this weekend.
Cleveland expects Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to play for the first time in a month Sunday against the Texans. The week before, they welcomed back rookie defensive end and first-overall pick Myles Garrett and third-year defensive lineman Danny Shelton to the lineup.
"We're back to almost full strength," head coach Hue Jackson said Thursday. "I think the guys are excited to be out there playing, practicing together and I think they're looking forward to playing in a game together."
So far, the Browns' defense has been mostly a bright spot amid an 0-5 start. They rank ninth in total defense, fifth in yards per game and fifth against opposing run games.
Much like Garrett — who recorded two sacks in his NFL regular season debut in last week's loss to the Jets — the Browns hope Collins provides a young but promising unit another spark. They held New York to a season-low 212 yards and 4-of-12 on third down.
With Collins, who suffered a concussion Week 2 against the Ravens, back in the fold, the goal is to continue that momentum against a Houston offense starting to find its footing with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.
"I'm excited to see our guys come back. It's a challenge for us to go on the road," linebacker Christian Kirksey said.
"As a competitor, you like that challenge. We have our guys. Jamie is back, Myles, he came back last week. We have all of our guys out there and ready to get a win. I'm definitely excited for that."
"Any time we get our guys back it just brings our defense closer to where we want to be," cornerback Jamar Taylor added.
Taylor, though, stressed the Browns have to make good on having their playmakers back. Actions, he said, speak louder than words.
"We have to go out there and put it on tape. We can't just talk about it," he said.
"We have to go put it on tape, so we are looking forward to Sunday."