Browns quick hits: Five defensive starters miss practice, status uncertain against Falcons

BEREA − The Browns had a lengthy list of players who did not practice on Wednesday. Many of them were among their best players.

Defensive end Myles Garrett (shoulder, biceps) was not at the facility as he recovers from Monday's automobile accident. His fellow defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, also didn't practice due to the ankle injury which kept him out of last week's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I really think it’s take it day by day on all these guys," coach Kevin Stefanski said, "but [Clowney] in particular. I don’t have a feel yet. As we get later in the week I’ll have a better feel."

Browns defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett get ready for the start of practice on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021 in Berea.
Browns defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett get ready for the start of practice on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021 in Berea.

Other key defensive players not practicing were defensive tackle Taven Bryan (hamstring), linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (groin) and Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward (back, ribs). That accounts for five starters off the Browns base defense, which is already missing linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. with a season-ending torn quad tendon.

All-Pro left guard Joel Bitonio (biceps) and offensive tackle Joe Haeg (concussion) were the offensive players who did not practice due to injury. Receiver Amari Cooper also didn't practice Wednesday, but the reason given was due to rest.

"That’s kind of the nature of the NFL," Stefanski said of dealing with a lengthy practice injury list. "If you look around the league, everybody’s dealing with injuries in some form or fashion. So it’s nothing new."

The only other players listed on the Browns' injury report Wednesday were right tackle Jack Conklin (knee), who was limited, along with safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. (hamstring) and defensive end Isaiah Thomas (hand), who were full participants.

Browns defense's mind on Atlanta Falcons' Marcus Mariota

The Falcons' offense will present a variety of challenges for the Browns. One of the biggest is the run-pass option ability of quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The former 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, Mariota is in his first season with the Falcons, and provides a dimension to their offense that former Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan didn't. Mariota has run the ball 25 times for 92 yards with two touchdowns so far. He has completed 50 of 79 passes for 640 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

"They’ve got an experienced quarterback," Browns safety John Johnson III said. "He’s been doing this style of offense for a long time even like back to college, so it’s going to be tough but we’ve seen a lot of RPO-type teams especially like in training camp when [the Philadelphia Eagles] came here. They’ve got a little bit of it, so it’s kind of just ‘do your job, see the formation.’ They can only do certain things out of those certain formations, so it’s kind of a like a discipline week. Everybody’s got to be laser-focused on doing their job."

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota scrambles during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota scrambles during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

In some ways, the offense the Browns will see from the Falcons isn't unfamiliar. In fact, you could almost say that birds of a feather, flock together.

Johnson referenced the similarities to what the Browns saw during the August joint practices and preseason game against the Eagles. There's also, he said, a connection between the Falcons' and Baltimore Ravens' offensive scheme, although Mariota and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson aren't quite the same, even though both were Heisman winners.

"The formations, it kind of looks identical to be honest," Johnson said. "Different style of quarterback. Lamar is Lamar. He’s kind of a little different, but offense is pretty similar."

Mariota and Jackson, though, do share one thing. Both lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.

Fourth-quarter ground power for Nick Chubb

Nick Chubb currently leads the NFL in rushing with 341 yards. The total is the third-best three-game total for a Browns' running back ever.

Where Chubb has really shown his strength has been in the fourth quarter. He has rushed for 99 fourth-quarter yards in three games.

"Things start to open up," Chubb said. "I can’t really see them getting tired, but at the end of the game things do start opening up a lot easier."

Browns running back Nick Chubb runs past Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds during the second half Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Cleveland.
Browns running back Nick Chubb runs past Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds during the second half Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Cleveland.

There's no question the goal of the Browns' ground game is to wear down the defense. The perpetual pounding of their offensive line, coupled with the physical style of running of both Chubb and Kareem Hunt, takes a lot out of an opponent.

That deflation that occurs is a real thing to be seen and felt by the Browns' offensive players.

"You kind of feel it in not just the huddle, but on the sideline," quarterback Jacoby Brissett said. "I mean, yeah, teams know we’re going to run the ball and we still run the ball. At some point it shows the defeat sometimes when we know we have them on the ropes, and sometimes that’s the blow that it takes is another run."

Kevin Stefanski not surprised by Cordarrelle Patterson as running back

Falcons running back Cordarrelle Paterson was honored on Wednesday as the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week. Patterson rushed for a career-high 141 yards and three touchdowns in the Falcons' win last Sunday in Seattle.

Patterson has rushed for at least 120 yards and a touchdown twice in the Falcons' first three games, the first player in the NFL to do so since Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers in 2017. If he were to do it again against the Browns, he would be just the fifth running back ever to have at least three such games in the first four games of the season.

The Browns' Jim Brown and Buffalo Bills star O.J. Simpson each did so four times, in 1958 and 1975, respectively. Brown and Houston's Earl Campbell each did so three times, in 1963 and 1979.

Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson scores a touchdown as Seattle Seahawks safety Josh Jones defends during the first half of an NFL football game Sept. 25, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson scores a touchdown as Seattle Seahawks safety Josh Jones defends during the first half of an NFL football game Sept. 25, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Stefanski was the assistant quarterbacks coach in Minnesota in 2013, when the Vikings picked Patterson as a wide receiver with the 29th overall pick in the first round. The two spent four seasons together there, which has provided the current Browns coach a great glimpse into the receiver-turned-running-back's potential.

“Not surprised because I have seen him do it," Stefanski said. "He is an unbelievable football player. He is a great person, also, which probably is most important. With the ball in his hands, he is special. When we had him as a young player, he was a receiver and then kind of transitioned him into a role where we gave it to him very similar to when we had Percy Harvin before Cordarrelle so we kind of used Cordarrelle in that role and gave him the ball. He is just a special player."

Patterson has rushed for 302 yards and two touchdowns on 49 carries this season. He's also caught four passes for 28 yards, as well as returning one kick for 27.

Cordarrelle Patterson sits out Wednesday's practice for Atlanta

Patterson did not practice for the Falcons on Wednesday, with the reason given as a day of rest. However, he has been battling some knee pain as well, which was also listed on the injury report.

Right guard Elijah Wilkinson returned to practice on Wednesday after missing Sunday's game. It was a non-injury personal reason that kept him out of the game against the Seattle Seahawks, as well as two practices last week.

Ohio native, ex-Kent State coach Dean Pees leading Falcons' defense

A very familiar face will be scheming up the Falcons' defense for Sunday's game. Ohio native and former Kent State head coach Dean Pees is in his second season as the defensive coordinator for Falcons coach Arthur Smith.

Pees, a Findlay native who coached the Golden Flashes from 1998-2003, has been around the NFL since leaving Kent. He has stops at New England (linebackers coach, 2004-05; defensive coordinator, 2006-09), Baltimore (inside linebackers coach, 2010-11; defensive coordinator 2012-17), Tennessee (defensive coordinator, 2018-29) and then, after a year off, to Atlanta.

Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees talks to star cornerback A J Terrell.
Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees talks to star cornerback A J Terrell.

“He is awesome," Stefanski said. "He is great. I don’t know Coach Pees real well. I have talked to him before games. Having coached against him, he presents all sorts of challenges. We have a lot of coaches on staff who know him from over the years. He is a really, really good football coach.”

Brissett and Pees both have spent time with the Patriots during their careers. The Browns' quarterback was asked Wednesday if he was with Pees in Foxborough, Massachusetts, leading him to respond, "No. he was not. I am not that old."

Contact Chris at ceasterling@thebeaconjournal.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingABJ

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland Browns down five defensive starters for Wednesday's practice