By the end of Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, Cleveland had five defensive positions occupied by backups.
The Browns entered the game without three defensive starters -- LB Joe Schobert, CB Terrance Mitchell and DB Damarious Randall. Three more -- CB Denzel Ward, CB E.J. Gaines (who has been filling Mitchell's spot) and LB Christian Kirksey -- couldn't finish against the Chiefs.
The Browns are hopeful some of the players will be available -- outside of Mitchell, who is still on injured reserve -- when Atlanta comes to FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday, but coach Gregg Williams couldn't guarantee it when he met with reporters Monday. The only thing he could guarantee was there would be no effect on the team's psyche, no matter how short-handed the team would be when it faces a Falcons team that has won three in a row.
"We do understand the effects, but the only way that can be controlled is having a philosophy. Then, executing a philosophy," Williams said. "The fact that we have one that is mentioned and that everybody has to do their job, the next man up has to do it. A large part of it that I have taken great pride in before is adjusting to what each one of those guys can do.
"It is never easy, but it is never an excuse."
Williams said he had trust in general manager John Dorsey to make the necessary moves if Cleveland simply doesn't have enough bodies at specific positions for Sunday's game. Regardless, Williams said he would adjust the distribution of practice repetitions to a wider net of players.
"Just making sure that it is a little bit more of a training camp, in that respect, where there is an even amount of reps to make sure that some of those guys – they are going to get more reps anyway while some of the guys are healing," Williams said.
The three players who filled in for the injured Browns -- Denzel Rice, Tavierre Thomas and Tanner Vallejo -- have been with the team since the start of the season but had almost exclusively been used on special teams.
Rice had the tall task of filling in for Ward, who has been a star for the Browns secondary through the first half of the season. Williams said he'd know more about Ward's future status later in the day and would prepare accordingly.
"It is one of those situations where, again, the next man up comes from that," Williams said. "People see how good you are when you are not around, too. You see that. That was evident."
-- One of the biggest positives Williams pulled from Sunday's loss was the Browns' lack of penalties. Cleveland entered the game as one of the league's most penalized teams but committed just four for 20 yards.
"From a practice situation to meetings and everything, yes, it was emphasized. It was a positive," Williams said. "There were a lot of positives that went on in that ball game. That was one of them."
-- Adding insult to injury, Williams said the blocked punt Cleveland surrendered came against a Kansas City group that wasn't even lined up in a punt block formation.
"That shows you how important that every single snap is important," Williams said. "You can only send one pass receiver out. He is the one that runs deep – you have to cover him. You send one rusher, you better make sure you are blocking him. That guy was probably shocked he blocked a punt, because it was a punt return."
-- Williams said he believes players are set up to fail if they don't participate in some parts of practice leading up to a game. That philosophy played a part in Williams' decision to make Randall, who missed all three practices last week, inactive for Sunday's game.
"I have never been with any person that could not practice during the week to walk out there and though they were good enough at this level to do it," Williams said. "It is different than the NBA and it is different than baseball. Football you set them up for a failure, so in order to get their body reaction time correct – their power response time correct – there needs to be a full speed rep or two before you get into the Sunday game."