Kitchens has high praise for Sheldon Richardson, not concerned about back injury - News & Notes

Browns coach Freddie Kitchens doesn't think a back injury will keep Sheldon Richardson from playing Sunday against the Ravens.

Richardson has not participated in practice this week but is expected to make his 15th start in as many games on a Browns defensive line that's been in a state of constant flux throughout the second half of the season.

"I think Sheldon will be fine," Kitchens said. "He will be good to go."

Richardson has played a key role on the defensive line all season, and he's been especially valuable during a turbulent stretch in which the team has lost star pass rusher Myles Garrett for the season and has been without veteran end Olivier Vernon for five of the past six games. In certain games, Richardson has been tasked with playing both as a tackle and an end.

Richardson is third on the team with 50 tackles and tied for fourth with three sacks. Those numbers, though, only scratch the surface of illustrating his impact.

"I have been happy with Sheldon," Kitchens said. "He gets to Sunday, and he is all energy, passion and plays hard. I do not know if I have seen a D-lineman play as hard as Sheldon plays. Makes plays all over the field. You will look up, and he is over there on the sideline making plays and that is on a consistent basis. That is exactly what we thought we were getting and that is what we have gotten."

Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Ravens Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey

-- There's a similar lack of concern about the readiness of C JC Tretter, who has missed a number of practices over the past few weeks because of a knee injury but hasn't missed a snap in any games.

"I think as you get older, you have a good grasp of what you need during the week," Tretter said. "When you get a little banged up, it's a balancing act of what your body needs and what your mind needs. We do a really good job in meetings of going over looks and going over what we're going to get and talking through things. I think that's the most important part for an offensive line unit is that communication in meetings."

-- Nick Chubb's second season has been nothing short of tremendous, but offensive coordinator Todd Monken was tasked Thursday with answering what could be perceived as a tricky question about the talented running back.

What can he do better?

"I think the biggest thing – he does work at it – is just his ball skills and route-running," Monken said. "I think he is going to continue to develop. He is a natural downhill running back and that is probably the easiest thing for him, and that is obvious to see. That is nothing that you have not seen. Just the consistency in his route-running and ball skills."

Since the return of Kareem Hunt, Chubb hasn't been called upon in the passing game as much as he was during the first half of the season. Still, he's already exceeded his totals in receptions (35) and receiving yards (277) from last season.

-- Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said veteran CB T.J. Carrie stepped up as a vocal leader during practice last week but admitted it's been hard to replace LB Christian Kirksey, who suffered a season-ending chest injury way back in Week 2.

"We are missing Christian Kirksey, we are missing Myles Garrett and those kind of things. We can't sit here and complain and worry about that," Wilks said. "They are not coming back this year. We have to find ways as coaches and players to try and weather through this storm and find a way out of it."

Kirksey, one of the longest tenured members of the team, has certainly done all he can. He's been a game captain for all but one game this season and has made most of the team's road trips.

"He is trying to fill that void as much as possible for still being that leader and that vocal guy that we talked about and that inspirational guy," Wilks said. "We definitely miss him out there. He was playing well before he went out. Just that emotional guy that you need out there on the field and in the locker room, that is the one that we are missing, yes."

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