Jacoby Brissett is not a fan of the bye week.
"I've honestly just been looking forward to getting out there, playing again," Brissett said. "I kind of hate the bye week a little bit."
Brissett said that last part with a smile, but it's hard to blame his feelings about the Browns' weekend off after they constructed their best game of the season in Week 8 against the Bengals. The offense hummed all evening in their 32-13 thumping of Cincinnati, and it's because Brissett looked as crisp as he ever has as the interim starting QB as the Browns await the return of Deshaun Watson.
Next up for Brissett and the Browns: another must-win game against a surging AFC opponent in the Dolphins.
"Just have to keep it going," RB Nick Chubb said. "I know that week, we had a great week of practice. Every day was a great day. Keep carrying on to this week. Have a great day every day and keep building on top of that."
The big task for both players and coaches during a bye week is to "self scout," a rather self-explanatory term for reviewing the tape from the first half of the season. Offensively, the Browns probably didn't need a self scout to review what they've done right, and that's running the football — the Browns rank third in the league in rushing and have dominated in that area all season.
But there's still other areas for improvement for the overall offense, which ranks seventh in the league, and Brissett believes most of the improvement can stem from one big takeaway.
"I think (the self scout) showed how much we have hurt ourselves and how much we have stopped us from scoring touchdowns, converting on third downs and big plays here and there," he said.
The Browns rank 15th in the league with a 41.28 third-down conversion percentage and 10th with a 61.29 touchdown percentage in the red zone. Not terrible numbers by any means, but certainly still areas that could use some work — and the Browns must be better in them for the offense to play at a level that'll keep them in the playoff chase.
What about the defense? The Browns have been excellent on that side of the ball the past two games, holding Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow to some of their lowest outputs of the season and giving the Browns a strong chance to win two big divisional games.
They only managed to win one of them, but the progress the group has made since it entered Week 7 ranked 31st in the league in points allowed has been palpable.
They now rank 24th in that category, and they must keep it going Sunday in Miami against a high-powered offense that features arguably the league's top receiver tandem in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and hottest QB in Tua Tagovailoa.
"The communication (has been) key," LB Sione Takitaki said. "It's just doing our job. The communication has been great on the sidelines and on the field. We've got to keep that up."
All of the desired areas for improvement should come easier when a team is well-rested, and that's how the Browns feel after taking the weekend to reflect on what went right and wrong from their 3-5 start.
Now, it's back to the grind with no breaks until the end of the season — just how Brissett likes it.
"We won a game last time we were out there," he said. "It's just like, 'Man, just can't wait to go out there and try to get another win and get back to work.'"
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Miami Dolphins
M.J. Emerson Jr. (illness), David Njoku (ankle), Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (knee) and Perrion Winfrey (illness) all did not practice Wednesday.
Owusu-Koramoah hasn't practiced since he suffered a knee injury against the Ravens in Week 7. Njoku also suffered his ankle injury in that game and hasn't practiced since, although head coach Kevin Stefanski wouldn't rule him out this early in the week.
"He's rehabbing very, very hard," Stefanski said. "He's trying like crazy. I can't peg it right now on a Wednesday, but I wouldn't rule him out."
CB Denzel Ward has missed the last three games due to a concussion but returned to practice last Monday. He was listed as limited in Wednesday's practice.
"I don't know if he's fully cleared (from protocol) yet, but he's hitting all the benchmarks," Stefanski said.
Big praise for Chubb
QB Jacoby Brissett had a poignant response when asked about RB Nick Chubb and what he shares to others when asked about him.
Chubb has arguably been the Browns' most valuable player through eight games and is second in the NFL with 841 rushing yards, 29 yards behind Tennessee's Derrick Henry.
"I sit there and think because there are so many things I can tell you about him," Brissett said. "The thing that I come back to is it is no surprise with the way he works – not only the videos that people see him lifting all these weights, but every day at practice, he's going to the touchdown; no matter how far we are back, he's running to the touchdown and running back for the next play — to where his success is no surprise, his style of running is no surprise and the things that he can do is no surprise.
"Obviously, you can't take it for granted because sometimes it's unhuman-like, but then when you get around him, you're like, 'Dang, man. This is what NFL players should be. This is what a professional athlete should be.' He does it day in and day out, no matter the circumstances. He is just that guy who you want in your locker room."