On Tuesday, December 11, the entire Browns defensive line was either listed as out or questionable for Saturday’s holiday matchup. The news on each player, plus a few rotational members of the team’s pass rush, ranged from bad to worse after Cleveland’s disheartening fourth quarter defeat to the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football.
Myles Garrett in Doubt for Week 16 with Groin Injury
The bad news begins with Browns Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett.
“You’re going to have to kill me to get me off that field,” Garrett told reporters following his team’s 16-14 loss to the Raiders Monday, which dropped Cleveland to 7-7 and put a significant dent in their postseason chances.
However, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told the media in a news conference on Tuesday that Garrett is questionable with a muscle strain he suffered in the second half against Las Vegas.
“Myles has a groin injury,” Stefanski said. “I still have results pending on that one.”
When asked whether Garrett will be a go for Saturday, Stefanski would not commit either way.
“I just don’t know. Still have more info coming in,” he continued.
Garrett, a two-time Pro-Bowl selection and a first-team All-Pro just last season, is on pace for another year atop the NFL’s pass rushing ranks. Garrett is first on the Browns and third in the league with 15 sacks, behind only the Chicago Bears‘ Robert Quinn (16 sacks) and the Pittsburgh Steelers T.J. Watt (17.5).
Garrett’s Status Just the Start of Browns’ Defensive Line Woes
Losing Garrett would greatly diminish the Browns’ chances of putting pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the few ways to disrupt the flow of the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP). But that’s just the start of Cleveland’s problems.
Garrett’s counterpart on the D-line, fellow defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, was designated to the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list on Sunday and forced to miss the matchup against the Raiders. The NFL has lightened rules on players coming back from the vaunted virus designation, which might allow for Clowney to potentially return earlier than he would have otherwise.
However, the rule changes enacted late last week in an attempt to ease the pains of teams like the Browns and the Bears didn’t make a significant difference in their roster constructions Monday night. Clowney, who has registered five sacks on the season, will still have to get down to a viral load level manageable enough as to not be considered contagious if he hopes to take Lambeau Field against Green Bay on Christmas Day.
Aside from the potential absences of Garrett and Clowney, defensive tackle Malik McDowell remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list while fellow starting DT Malik Jackson remains questionable for Saturday with a knee injury.
Browns Backup Defensive End Done for Season With Achilles Injury
Cleveland’s pass rush specialist Takkarist McKinley is not a regular starter on the team but after Monday night, he will no longer be a regular contributor — at least not for the rest of the season.
McKinley, who has appeared in 11 games and started two for the Browns during his first season in Cleveland, went down in the second half against the Raiders with was first thought to be an ankle injury. He tried to put weight on the leg but proved unable and was ultimately carted off the field. The Browns on Tuesday officially upgraded McKinley’s injury status to out for the season with a torn achilles tendon.
His imminent surgery adds to the list of defensive linemen either out or questionable for Cleveland as the team tries to claw its way back into the playoffs for a second consecutive postseason berth. The sixth name on that list is defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, who was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list last Wednesday and remains out of the lineup for now, per ESPN.
Following their matchup with the Packers on Saturday, the Browns finish the season with a road game against the Steelers in Week 17 and a home finale against the Cincinnati Bengals on January 9.