A full season and one week later, Grant Delpit is expected to make his NFL debut Sunday against the Texans.
The 2020 second-round pick missed all of his rookie season after tearing his Achilles tendon and was inactive last week after dealing with a hamstring injury through most of training camp. After limited work Wednesday and Thursday, Delpit was a full participant in Friday's practice.
"I think we brought him back on a pitch count throughout the week and then did more and did a nice job," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He is locked in mentally and looking forward to getting him out there."
How the Browns plan to deploy Delpit in conjunction with starters John Johnson III and Ronnie Harrison Jr. remains to be seen. On Thursday, defensive coordinator Joe Woods said Delpit was "looking good" and was hoping to "get him in the game and get him a few plays."
"He looks good to me," Johnson said. "Building the continuity between the three of us will be huge for us."
Stefanski said veteran Malcolm Smith and Elijah Lee are among the possible candidates to replace Anthony Walker in the middle of Cleveland's defense.
Walker, who played nearly every snap in the season opener and relays the play calls from the sidelines, was placed on injured reserve Friday, a move that ensures he will miss at least three games.
"We will work through it," Stefanski said. "That is something we have talked about. When we get to the game we will see what we are going to do. We have a plan to obviously rotate in some linebackers."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Houston Texans
Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin revealed a surprising tidbit about DT Malik McDowell, whose rise to a starting role has been one of biggest storylines on Cleveland's revamped defense.
McDowell, who had never seen the field since he was drafted by the Seahawks in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, reported to training camp around 303 pounds, Kiffin said. Midway through it, McDowell checked in around 317.
The 14 added pounds were good weight, Kiffin said, but surprising nonetheless. He's maintained that size for the season.
"A bunch of that was muscle so a lot of good weight, but at the same time, you are going through training camp you think you are going to be losing weight," Kiffin said. "That is a weight we are all good with him playing at as long as he can continue to maintain his stamina during games and run to the ball."
McDowell picked up a tackle for loss on his first NFL snap and was one of the Browns' most productive defensive players in last week's season-opening loss to the Chiefs. Kiffin said he's enjoyed seeing the progress McDowell has made but stressed he still has so much room to improve.
"He came in here and regardless of whatever he has done in the past, he had to learn the way we were going to play the technique up front," Kiffin said. "The way we play kind of fits him – attack, penetrate, disrupt, get off and make plays and then once you get off and attack, then get to the ball. There is still a lot for him to learn and get better at.
"Everything is going to be a first one. Now we are in the home crowd so he is going to wonder why it is really loud on third down when he is out there. Everything is going to be a first."
All About Situations
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, who was one of the Browns' standouts during training camp, started Sunday's season opener, played the majority of the snaps but was targeted just once. Peoples-Jones made the most of it, hauling in a 4-yard pass on third-and-2 on the Browns' final offensive possession of the game.
Stefanski highlighted that play and stressed Peoples-Jones' touches — along with the rest of the team's playmakers — will vary week to week.
"Think about that one touch and how big it was," Stefanski said. "It was a third down where we needed it. We were in a two-minute drive. It was good coverage by them, and he makes a strong catch. We are going to call on him. We are going to need him to make plays for us."