The Baltimore Ravens will be going up against a Cleveland Browns team that is missing key starters on both sides of the ball on December 12, potentially giving Baltimore a better chance at winning their second game against Cleveland this year.
The Browns were close to full strength for their Week 12 matchup with the Ravens in November, but multiple COVID cases and a few injuries in practice have knocked out several players.
Starting tight end David Njoku was placed on the COVID-19 Reserve list on December 7, according to Heavy’s J.R. DeGroote, and he was officially ruled out by Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski on December 10, per Browns staff writer Andrew Gribble.
Njoku leads the Browns with 407 receiving yards this season, but the Ravens held him mostly in check during their last game on November 28. He only had three catches for 35 yards, but he scored a 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter that cut Baltimore’s lead to three points.
Tight end Harrison Bryant will also be out vs. the Ravens after missing practice all week with an ankle injury, according to the Browns’ official injury report, leaving Cleveland with ex-Atlanta Falcon Austin Hooper and the recently-promoted Miller Forristal at tight end. Hooper was a non-factor in the last Ravens-Browns game, unable to reel in any of his three targets, but Bryant caught three passes for 50 yards.
It’s a lucky break for a Ravens defense that has struggled to cover opposing tight ends all season, with the fourth-most receiving yards surrendered to the position in 2021, per Pro Football Reference.
Browns’ Rookie CB Suffers Late Injury
Greg Newsome, the Browns’ rookie starting cornerback, suffered a concussion on the last play of practice on December 10, as reported by Ari Meirov of Pro Football Focus, sidelining him for the Ravens game as well. Newsome has the second-highest PFF coverage grade of any rookie corner in his nine starts this season, so 2019 second-rounder Greedy Williams will have to step up in his absence.
The Browns also ruled starting linebacker Anthony Walker out due to COVID-19, along with punter Jamie Gillan. Heavy’s J.R. DeGroote reported that Cleveland signed two-time Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt on December 10 to replace Gillan against the Ravens, who boast the NFL’s leading punt returner in Devin Duvernay.
The defensive injuries for the Browns should give a struggling Ravens offense a solid opportunity at a bounce-back game in Cleveland, but a December 5 injury to starting right tackle Patrick Mekari could complicate matters. It will certainly be difficult for star quarterback Lamar Jackson to regain the MVP form he displayed earlier in the season if he’s constantly under pressure from the Browns’ dangerous pass-rushing duo of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
Mayfield to Play Through Injuries
Despite lingering foot and shoulder injuries, Browns starting quarterback Baker Mayfield is set to take the field in Week 14 against the Ravens. He threw for over 250 yards during the teams’ first meeting this season, but completed less than 50% of his passes in the process.
The Ravens were able to sack Mayfield twice, one of which resulting in a fumble recover for Baltimore. Especially without All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, expect the Ravens to dial up the pressure on Mayfield in hopes of forcing the injured quarterback into a few more turnovers on December 12.