October 20, 2014

Elyria
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Browns’ issues are starting to build

Braylon Edwards hasn’t been in a game since his spectacular touchdown catch on the first series of the preseason. Jamal Lewis has nine total carries. Derek Anderson is 8-for-15 passing.
Linebacker Antwan Peek can’t help the anemic pass rush after arthroscopic knee surgery. Safeties Brodney Pool (concussion) and Sean Jones (knee swelling) were missing Saturday from the back line of a suspect pass defense.
Injuries are a valid, and convenient, explanation for many of the Browns’ struggles in the preseason. But injuries are as much a part of life in the NFL as luxury SUVs — and you have to deal with them.
“When those guys come back, they’re going to be a little rusty,” coach Romeo Crennel said Saturday following a 26-6 loss to the Lions that dropped the Browns to 0-3. “It’s not just going to happen that we’re going to be back to where we want to be. We’re going to have to work at it.”
Anderson hasn’t practiced since suffering a mild concussion Monday versus the Giants. He may return today if he’s cleared medically, and Crennel said he would start the preseason finale Thursday versus the Bears if he’s healthy.
Edwards has yet to have an undisclosed number of stitches removed from his foot after being stepped on by Donte Stallworth. Lewis missed the Lions game with a sore hamstring.
With a defense that has struggled to pressure the quarterback and cover receivers, the Browns could very well be reliant on their offense to win games. Edwards and Lewis are arguable the two most indispensable members of that unit.
“We have a lot of pieces still missing,” defensive lineman Shaun Rogers said of the poor play. “They are very much impact players on the team.”
The team is working under the assumption that Edwards, who hasn’t practiced since Aug. 9, Lewis and Anderson will be fine for the season opener Sept. 7 versus the Cowboys. Their return will surely provide a boost, but the chemistry of the offense would remain a concern.
“With injuries, not to use that as an excuse, there have been guys in and out,” said Stallworth, who missed time early in camp with a hamstring injury. “We really haven’t been able to get correct timing.”
The talented receiving threesome of Edwards, Kellen Winslow — he ran the wrong play and was penalized for holding on consecutive plays Saturday — and Stallworth has yet to play together in a game.
“We need to get everyone back, everyone together and get into a flow,” backup quarterback Brady Quinn said. “We really haven’t had that. We just need to find a consistent flow throughout our team.”
The short-term schedule doesn’t favor the Browns. They had just two practices between trips to New Jersey and Detroit, and will have only today and Tuesday to prepare before the Bears visit.
But then the Browns have 10 days before Dallas comes to town for real.
“Hopefully in that time, we get guys back and we can work on technique,” said Crennel, who freely admitted he’s concerned about the struggles.
“The good thing about camp and preseason, there still is time,” Stallworth said.
Pro Bowl kick returner Joshua Cribbs, who’s in the discussion for most indispensable player, is also on the shelf with a high ankle sprain. His return for the opener is questionable, as are those of right guard Ryan Tucker (hip) and Peek.
So Syndric Steptoe, Rex Hadnot and rookie Alex Hall will be asked to fill large voids.
“We are all professionals, so backups got to be able to step in when guys are hurt,” defensive end Robaire Smith said. “This is a big test for us.”
Injuries aren’t the only problem plaguing the Browns. The usually reliable offensive line hasn’t been at its best the past two games, Kamerion Wimbley can’t bring down the quarterback on the occasions he reaches him, special teams coverage has been spotty and the secondary depth remains a question mark.
“Now we have to have urgency about getting better,” running back Jason Wright said. “I don’t think we’ve ever been lackadaisical, but we have to up our level of urgency.
“I don’t think there’s any one thing you can point to. Each man individually just has not played up to our potential.”
Can they fix their ills in time?
“We have no choice,” he said. “Yes, we can.
“We’re not in panic mode, not freaking out. But we need to be intentional about our approach.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.