Myles Garrett has always enjoyed watching other elite defensive players work their craft.
Garrett, who is second in the NFL with seven sacks and tied for second with three forced fumbles, always feels an extra kick of motivation when he sees great plays from All-Pro players like Aaron Donald, T.J. Watt or Khalil Mack. Garrett wants to make those plays, too, and while all those players are in the early race with Garrett for a Defensive Player of the Year award, that's not the reason why Garrett feels galvanized to make big plays every Sunday.
He wants to make those plays to simply help the Browns win. He's preached about his pursuit of that goal since the start of training camp, and the approach has helped him continue his ascension as an elite pass rusher who's already changed many games in the Browns' favor this season.
"(Those players) make we want to strive to do better," Garrett said. "I do watch their games, and I do see how they beat their guys and make an impact. That just makes me want to strive for greatness."
Garrett is hoping to make a few more game-changing plays this week against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Browns defense will certainly rely on Garrett in helping them get back to creating turnovers. Cleveland failed to record a takeaway last week in Pittsburgh, and the loss put an even bigger emphasis on how important turnovers have been to the Browns' success in 2020.
The Browns lead the league with 12 turnovers, and while three of them are attributed to Garrett's three forced fumbles, that number doesn't do justice for how much of an impact Garrett has made on opposing QBs. He forced a Colts safety in Week 5, for example, and his ability to constantly attack the pocket has led quarterbacks to force the ball through risky passing lanes that have led to interceptions.
"I hope he is constantly getting better and striving to do that," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said last week. "Whether it is film study or whether it is out on the field, playing left end, playing right end, different sets, different moves and continuing to work on his toolbox as a pass rusher. He is obviously better than he was in training camp, so he needs to continue to progress. As always with the great ones, it is fun to watch and to see him do different things."
Garrett has continued to keep his primary focus on his next opponent. Sure, he enjoys watching other big plays from his league-wide competition, but Garrett knows he can only make his share of big plays by keeping his sights set on whichever team is up next and helping the Browns win.
"They make me want to strive to do better," Garrett said, "but I can't let it get to me. I'm not playing (those guys). I'm playing the Bengals."
Tight end depth ready for next test
The Browns began Friday preparations for Week 7 with some injury news from the tight ends room.
Austin Hooper, who's made 22 receptions for 205 yards and a touchdown, will miss Sunday's game in Cincinnati after being diagnosed with appendicitis. While a full timetable for a return is unknown, coach Kevin Stefanski said that he doesn't expect Hooper to miss much time.
"He's in good spirits," Stefanski said. "Any success we have had this year, he has been heavily involved. Obviously, we'll miss him.
Hooper has been one of the most reliable weapons so far on the Browns offense. He's second among skill players — trailing only QB Baker Mayfield — in total snaps so far this year and has played a significant role as a blocker in Cleveland's league-best rushing attack. Hooper's steady pair of hands and blocking abilities will be missed, but the Browns have quality depth to temporarily replace him.
Rookie Harrison Bryant has received heavy praise from Browns coaches for showing quick growth as both a pass catcher and run blocker, and David Njoku, who missed Weeks 2-4 with a knee injury, has made five receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. Stephen Carlson, who's done most of his work thus far on special teams, could also have an increased workload.
All three have previous success from a variety of roles, and the Browns will lean on them to produce even more while Hooper is out.
"We'll hold down the fort until he gets back," Stefanski said. "We will roll those guys in."
Hubbard continues to rise at RG
Chris Hubbard hadn't taken a snap at right guard before he was asked to step in midway through the Browns' Week 5 matchup against the Colts, but his inexperience hasn't shown on tape.
Browns coaches commended Hubbard, a seven-year veteran, again this week for his seamless transition to the interior line after previously serving as a swing tackle. He'll continue to be called to the position as RG Wyatt Teller progresses in his recovery from a calf injury. The Browns are confident Hubbard will continue to rise to whatever challenges are ahead.
"I commend Chris for making this move on such short notice and doing the things he's done and having success," offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. "He had some struggles in the Pittsburgh game, but he competed hard. He's learning some of the intricacies of the position, which is hard to do when you move a tackle inside."
Last Sunday's matchup against the Steelers, who own one of the best defensive lines in the league, was a strong test for Hubbard and the rest of the offensive line. It was far from a perfect performance — G Joel Bitonio and C JC Tretter each voiced a desire for improvement from the unit this week — but it provided Hubbard with a heavy dose of reps against a talented opponent.
Any reps, however, are important for a lineman undergoing a position change, and Callahan believes last week's results will only help Hubbard continue to learn at a fast pace.
"To make that transition, it's awfully challenging and awfully tough because things happen so much quicker and faster inside," Callahan said. "We spent quite a bit of time this week trying to dive into some of the details of those techniques, and I think he's comfortable with them now."