The Cleveland Browns already have a tough task ahead of them Sunday, but the potential absence of two crucial offensive pieces could make circumstances considerably more difficult.
Cleveland will host AFC North Division leaders the Baltimore Ravens December 12, but may be forced to do so without the help of wide receiver Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku.
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The Ravens held off the Browns two weeks prior in Baltimore by a score of 16-10, despite the help of both players. Landry led the team in receptions and receiving, with 6 catches for 111 yards. Njoku, meanwhile, caught 3 balls for 35 yards and was responsible for Cleveland’s sole touchdown.
Different Issues, Potentially Same Results for Browns’ Landry, Njoku
Landry was one of four Browns players to miss practice on Wednesday, per the team’s official injury report. Cleveland’s second-leading receiver this year, with 356 yards through the air, Landry is battling a nagging knee issue. He has already missed four of eight games this year due to injury.
He was joined on the did not practice (DNP) list by tight end Harrison Bryant (ankle) and wide receiver Andrew Schwartz (concussion protocol). Bryant has proven a factor this season, pulling in 3 catches for 50 yards against the Ravens in the Brown’s final game before their bye week last Sunday. The second-year player out of FAU has caught 16 passes for 211 yards on the season.
The fourth member of the Browns to sit out practice was starting left defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who is currently sidelined with a knee injury of his own. The Browns did not specify the projected game statuses for any of the four Wednesday, per the team’s report.
Njoku’s absence is not a question of injury, though it is a question of health. Cleveland’s top pass catcher on the year, with 407 yards receiving and 3 TDs, was designated to the league’s COVID-19/Reserve list on Tuesday.
The fifth-year tight end was anything but happy about the designation, responding publicly to it on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.
“Smh I don’t feel a thing,” he wrote.
Njoku still has a chance to play on Sunday in Baltimore, but it is unclear if he will. That is mostly due to medical privacy laws that keep his vaccination status out of the public record, as well as any relevant test results. Cleveland’s top threat in the passing game will be eligible to take the field if he is, in fact, vaccinated and tests negative for the virus two separate times prior to kickoff Sunday.
Timing of Potential Player Absences not Optimal for Browns
The timing of the Browns’ potential absences to both tight ends and Landry is hardly ideal, though the bye week that arrived last Sunday could not have come at a better time.
The Browns fell one score short of victory against the Ravens two weeks ago, despite Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson tossing Cleveland 4 interceptions. Browns QB Baker Mayfield took a lot of heat for the offense’s inability to convert those turnovers into the points necessary to win. He spoke to some of those questions Wednesday, December 8 during a session with media members.
“I have not had any major setbacks the past few weeks and then having another week off. Looking forward to keep getting better as the weeks go on,” Mayfield said. “Right now, we are just looking at it as a one-game season at a time. Everything that we can accomplish is still in front of us so if we handle it correctly, that will happen that way. Just have to do so accordingly.”
The Browns remain in the chase for the playoffs but every loss makes their chances that much more difficult. If the postseason began this weekend, the Browns would be watching from home as the 11th seed in the AFC. However, Cleveland is only one game back of the Buffalo Bills, who currently occupy the 7th and final seed in the conference’s playoff picture.
The Browns’ schedule is brutal the rest of the way, all five of their opponents currently boasting winning records, putting wins in home games like the one against the Ravens Sunday at a premium.