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News & Notes: John Johnson III confident new-look defense will be ready for Week 1

Injuries have limited the starting group’s time together, but Johnson is optimistic about the group’s progress

John Johnson III has been in the league long enough to know there's no avoiding injuries, even in the preseason.

And in the Browns' case — even when you're trying to get a new-look defense ready for a regular season opener against the defending AFC Champions.

Still, Johnson isn't concerned. The defense, as he sees it, was always going to be a group that got better and better, closer and closer, as the season progressed. 

After playing on the NFL's best defense in 2020, he would know better than most.

"I would not say frustrating. That is the name of the game in the league. Injuries are going to happen every year – big-name guys and special teams guys. It happens," Johnson said after Tuesday's practice. "You just have to trust that the backups are ready to go, go out there and compete every day and push each other to be better. 

"Whoever is out there on gameday will be ready."

That's how the Browns have operated for most of training camp, as a number of projected starters have dealt with injuries that have kept them off the field for various stretches of time. Others have received periodic rest, which has thrust a number of projected second- and third-team players into first-team roles on the practice fields and in the Browns' first two preseason games.

Most, if not all, of the players have been available for walkthroughs, though, and Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said that's been beneficial to the unit's jelling.

"Ultimately, would love to get the entire group out there – offense, defense and special teams – and have the full complement of guys, but injuries are a part of it, and we just deal with it accordingly," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "The guys are working hard, I will tell you that.

"Guys will get healthy as we go here and get more guys in here. I just think it is a natural evolution of it as guys come off of the rehab list."

Johnson foresees a natural evolution as the season progresses, too. From his experience, no matter the circumstances, you can be good in Week 1 and great by the end of the year.

"I think we can do all we can to be ready for Week 1, but I also do think it constantly gets better as the season goes," Johnson said. "We learn more about each other, install new schemes depending on the team you're playing. 

"Getting to Week 1 with whoever it may be out there will be a challenge. Being a professional, you've got to be able to do that. As the season goes on, in Week 15, we'll be completely different."

Takk Back

The Browns welcomed back DE Takkarist McKinley in recent days and are expecting to see him on the practice field in the near future.

McKinley, who signed with the Browns in March, had been away from the team since the early part of camp because of personal reasons. The former first-round pick is expected to provide some key depth and energy behind Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney on the defensive line.

"We support all of our guys in the building and outside of the building," Stefanski said. "He has our support. He has my support. I think guys are excited to have him back."

Check out exclusive photos from Tuesday's practice at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus

JOK is OK

The Browns were without rookie LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at Tuesday's practice because of what Stefanski described as a "weight room accident."

The second-rounder out of Notre Dame needed stitches for a cut on his forehead but is "doing fine," Stefanski said.

Regular Season Mode Activated

The Browns are in regular season mode this week as they prepare for Sunday's preseason finale in Atlanta. 

Cleveland held its first morning practice of training camp Tuesday, a session that went for roughly an hour and did not have the players in pads. This type of practice would match what the team would do in any week it has an extra day of practice during the season, such as the week after a bye or the week after a Thursday night game. The team's schedule Wednesday, Thursday and Friday is identical to how it will treat game weeks during the year.

"I just thought it was important that our coaches and our players get back in the rhythm of that while still doing some competitive periods," Stefanski said. "With this extra day, if you will, we just felt this was the best thing to do. Send the O-line and D-line in early so they can start their lift, get some work out here with them to start and then finish with some seven-on-seven."

Davis Suspended

The NFL on Tuesday announced WR Davion Davis would be suspended without pay for the first two games of the 2021 season because of a violation of the NFL's Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse. Davis is still allowed to play in Sunday's preseason finale at Atlanta.

Davis, who joined the team early in training camp, has led the Browns in receiving in both of the team's preseason games. He will be eligible to return ​​to the active roster Monday, Sept. 20, following the Browns' Week 2 game against the Texans.

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