The Texans, looking to snap a seven-game losing streak, may get their Pro Bowl receiver back in the lineup when they host a Browns team without one of its biggest offseason acquisitions.
Houston is 0-6 for the first time in its short history, and hasn’t won since Dec. 26 at Jacksonville.
Johnson, though, may return this week after missing the past two games and most of a third with a calf strain, giving the Texans reason to be encouraged.
Johnson had more than 1,000 yards receiving last season and often forced double teams that opened up other receivers for the Texans. With him out, Houston’s offense has become one-dimensional and very predictable, and David Carr has been sacked 35 times.
The Texans had negative yardage in the second half last Sunday and allowed the Indianapolis Colts to record almost 300 yards and 24 points after halftime in a 38-20 loss.
Despite his frustration, Houston coach Dom Capers still thinks his team can salvage the season. He’s previously dealt with 0-4 and 0-5 records, and is trying not to crumble under the pressure.
“Hey, we’re all part of this. It’s how we respond right now that will determine where we are at the end of the year,” he said. “I’m still convinced that we can get this thing going right.”
Carr said the feeling the Texans got from some solid play in the first half against the unbeaten Colts could benefit this battered team.
“We are an 0-6 team but we go out and really believe that we can execute,” he said. “When we did execute, it gave us a little boost, a little confidence.”
Cleveland has lost two straight and three of four, and will play the remainder of the season without Baxter.
The Browns placed the cornerback on injured reserve Tuesday after he underwent surgery for a a torn pectoral muscle suffered in last Sunday’s 13-10 loss to the Detroit Lions.
Baxter was one of Cleveland’s most important acquisitions during the offseason, signing a six-year, $30 million free agent contract in March. He finished the season with 20 tackles and two interceptions.
One player that will continue to start for the Browns is quarterback Trent Dilfer despite having two straight awful performances.
Against the Lions, Dilfer completed 10 of 19 passes for 73 yards and threw three interceptions. His passer rating was just 22.4.
A week earlier, Dilfer went 16-of-30, fumbled twice and threw an interception in a 16-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He has eight turnovers in his past three games and the Browns have not scored an offensive touchdown in two weeks.
“I haven’t played well on Sundays the past couple weeks,” Dilfer said. “I know I need to fix that.”
Crennel contemplated personnel moves, but decided to keep his starting units intact for at least another week. His alternative at quarterback is rookie Charlie Frye, who has yet to take a regular-season snap in the NFL.
“The quarterback position, with that guy being the leader, you put him in charge,” Crennel said. “He’s in charge, so you try to give him the benefit of the doubt and not make knee-jerk reactions. What is a knee-jerk, or how long does it take? Well, that’s a judgment thing.”