Vernon has missed the last three games with a knee injury, but practiced for the first time this week in limited fashion since suffering the knee injury at the end of the Browns loss to the Broncos on Nov. 3.
With the suspension of Myles Garrett for the season, Vernon has been especially missed, with the Browns starting Chad Thomas and Chris Smith, also forcing recently signed Bryan Cox into extended action. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has even seen some time at defensive end.
The Browns traded for Vernon this offseason, giving them two elite pass-rushing talents. However, it came at a cost, giving up offensive guard Kevin Zeitler and the No. 155 overall selection in this year’s draft. The Browns have struggled to fill the hole left by Zeitler, rotating Eric Kush and Wyatt Teller.
Vernon had 23 tackles and three sacks at the time of his injury and was picking up his play in recent weeks. According to Pro Football Focus, he had at least three pressures in all but one game so far this season.
Browns DT Larry Ogunjobi Returns After Suspension
The Browns will be getting a big addition back in the middle of the defensive line as Larry Ogunjobi returns from his one game suspension for his role in the Browns scrap with the Steelers two weeks ago.
“Larry brings a lot of energy – relentless, resilient. Larry is a good football player,” Freddie Kitchens said on Wednesday. “He is conscious of his rush lanes, his gap integrity, which makes him a good football player when you add his skillset to that.”
Ogunjobi is on career-high pace with 28 tackles and five sacks.
Offensive Lineman Greg Robinson Unlikely to Play With Concussion
There’s a good chance the Browns will be shorthanded on the offensive line this week, as left tackle Greg Robinson has missed time with a concussion. Robinson reported concussion-like symptoms on Wednesday and hasn’t practiced since.
Kitchens confirmer Robinson is still in the concussion protocol and — like Vernon — is listed as questionable for Sunday.
If he was to miss the game against the Steelers, Justin McCray would likely slide into the starting lineup. He started a game earlier this season when the Browns were looking for a spark on the offensive line. Kendall Lamm is also available.
“Hopefully, he can get back,” Browns guard Joel Bitonio said this week. “I do not know all the details on that stuff, but we have guys that have played in the NFL before. Justin McCray has played this year. Lamm has been around, and like I said, hopefully Greg can get back. He is a big, strong guy and he went up against them a couple of weeks ago.
“They are a great defense whatever you put out there. We will be ready. We will have five guys ready to roll, and that is the nature of the beast.”
Other Browns not practicing on Friday included DB Eric Murray (knee) and TE Pharoah Brown (undisclosed). Murray has been ruled out.