April 20, 2014

For the Browns, it’s time for the “next man up” to produce

Garrett Gilkey

Garrett Gilkey

Following Thursday night’s game, Brandon Weeden addressed the injury situation. “I believe we have the depth to overcome them,” Weeden said. “We have a lot of young guys to roll with the ‘twos’ that can fill in. It’s just the next guy, that’s part of playing this sport.”

Weeden may be correct about the next man in line having to step up when his opportunity comes around, but do the Browns have the players waiting in the wings for all of the injuries that are mounting?

“There’s going to be injuries, we just have to find ways to overcome them and the good teams do,” said Weeden, echoing the sentiments that came from head coach Rob Chudzinski.

For the Browns, they now have several spots in which the ‘next man up’ will have their number called immediately.

Fortunately for the Browns, running back Trent Richardson looked good in his return to action. Coach Chudzinski also said that Richardson came out of the game healthy. The depth chart behind him is a lot more murky after Thursday.

Montario Hardesty hasn’t played in a preseason game yet, and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee earlier Thursday. He has battled a hamstring injury and also dislocated his thumb. Dion Lewis was poised to take over the second string spot, and likely earn some time as a change of pace back. On Thursday Lewis fractured his fibula. The severity of the fracture is not known yet, but it would be very difficult to imagine Lewis playing anytime soon. It could easily be a season ending injury.

That leaves Brandon Jackson, who rushed seven times against the Lions for negative net yards, and Miguel Maysonet. Jackson caught three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. Maysonet carried four times for five yards. Chris Ogbonnaya could also be moved back to the running back position instead of trying to turn him into a fullback.

The guard situation is tough. Jason Pinkston was filling in for the injured Shaun Lauvao. Lauvao should be back sometime after the third week of the season if all goes as planned. Lauvao had arthroscopic surgery on his ankle last Friday. Pinkston was injured when a player was pushed onto the back of his legs. The Browns called the injury an ankle sprain, saying that x-rays were negative. Given Pinkston’s reaction at the time of the injury and the way he was unable to put any weight on it coming off the field or out of the locker room it would seem hard to believe Pinkston will be back for the opener.

Rookie Garrett Gilkey was the “next man up” against the Lions. You could call it a baptism by fire for the 2013 seventh round pick from division two Chadron State. Gilkey played last week against the Rams, but he has never faced a player with the physical abilities of Ndamukong Suh.

“That was my first time going against that competition level,” admitted Gilkey. “Suh’s a great competitor, he’s a great athlete. It was good to go against him and to gain that experience. He’s doing nothing but making me better, which is making the team better.”

The rookie learned a few lessons Thursday. “It’s important to realize you have to be ready any second,” he said. “It’s just time to step up and I think that’s one of the things that coach Chud has really expressed and kind of branded these past few weeks, the importance of being ready.”

Gilkey will likely get a chance to hold down the right guard spot until Lauvao or Pinkston return.

The highest profile player injured on Thursday was first round pick Barkevious Mingo. Mingo wasn’t being counted on to be a starter, but if he misses much time with the bruised lung it will certainly set back his progress for the season. Coach Chudzinski said he didn’t know exactly how the injury to Mingo occurred.

Gary Barnidge suffered a sprained shoulder. Barnidge was seeing time with the first unit, depending on the personnel package. Jordan Cameron had a great game. Kellen Davis and Dan Gronkowski will be battling for opportunities as well.

Kicker Brandon Bogotay felt tightness in his groin, but the Browns have veteran Shayne Graham who has been battling Bogotay.

(Photo: Candice Vlcek for WFNY)

  • JHop

    Call me crazy, but with the RB position becoming so thin, why not bring in a veteran RB who’s still on the market? Some names that come to mind and could arguably be had for little money are: Willis McGahee, Cedric Benson, or even Michael Turner.

    Giving any one of these guys a one year deal is a no risk high reward move. It 1) does not jeopardize future cap space; and 2) provides a great, reliable insurance policy to a possible Richardson injury, since each of these guys can still play at a decent level. If Lewis and/or Hardesty come back, you can cut them with little penalty. If not, worst case you run with one of the vets as your backup until the end of the season, and then turn to the draft to find a suitable rookie backup.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I think Hardesty was on the way out anyway. So if the Browns are keeping 3 RBs and 1 FB, that’d be Richardson, Jackson, Lewis at RB and Obi at FB. You’d have to think they’d put a RB on the practice squad as well, so maybe that’s Maysonet. I would be in favor of bringing in one of the running backs you mentioned since Lewis is going to miss a couple of weeks at the beginning of the season, but if the Browns won’t bring in Kerry Rhodes on a 1-year deal, then it seems unlikely that they’ll bring in a backup RB on a 1-year deal… that’s the vibe I’m getting from Joe Banner’s front office.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    on gilkey, i hope everyone got a chance to catch reboot’s article that includes a great gilkey story.

    long story short, a first time camp visitor who is also redheaded and gilkey get talking sunblocks as gingers are wont to do. visitor offers to give him the sunblock but gilkey insists on having it autographed by visitor first. photo evidence included.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ WFNYRick

    That’s fantastic.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Turner would be interesting since he’s a bit similar to Richardson, style wise. Could be good insurance. That said, not sure Turner would be willing to come in as pure insurance…

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    maurice clarett.

    if you follow him on twitter you know he’s up to train at 5am every day and his head is totally right. and believe it or not he’s only 29. a low-mileage 29 at that.

    whether they do or dont, i think it’d be cool if clarrett at least got a call to see if he’s interestde.

  • JHop

    I think at this point a paycheck’s a paycheck for Turner. Beggars can’t be choosers, unless he’s holding out hope that some starting RB on a pass-happy team gets injured badly.

  • Harv 21

    I believe this fan-friendly player attitude stems from Chud. Whether Chud becomes competent or not (and his general demeanor last night sure looked competent, FWIW), I appreciate that part.

  • JHop

    I wouldn’t put too much weight on training alone. Some octogenarians at my gym get up that early to train as well.

    If we’re talking about handing out a veteran’s minimum deal, I’d much rather give it to someone who has playoff experience and contributed significantly only a year ago (i.e. McGahee and Turner).

  • Ezzie Goldish

    What I mean is that I think for a guy who’s made a ton of money like him, he may be holding out exactly that kind of hope.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    i know it’s a long-shot. but he’s actually younger than all the guys you mentioned. seems crazy but it’s true.

  • JHop

    Age is important, but I wouldn’t want the Browns to sign anyone for more than one year. That way we’d be able to draft a more suitable backup in 2014.

    Since it’s a one year stint, I don’t think it matters as much if the guy is 25, 29, or 33. Just as long as he’s willing to play the role of mentor and insurance policy.

  • JHop

    If hard-pressed, I’d definitely take McGahee or Turner over either Jackson or Obi.

    Crazy theory alert: what if we were able to sign Turner on and convert him to part-time FB? That’d create a dangerous red zone RB duo. The big hitch would be if Turner would OK the switch.

  • Harv 21

    - This is an excellent time in pre-season to look for replacements at these positions. There are too many NFL- level running backs to make all squads, especially the smaller change of pace type they seem to want. And borderline FA guards can be found.

    - I’m more worried about TE depth in a TE-centric offense like this. Last night it looked like the light turned on for Cameron, the confluence of an offense that suits his skills and him being able to finally let his ability flow during a game. But I’m looking at his long, lean basketball body and I’m thinking: they need someone else capable of running those routes when he goes down. A real passing target with speed makes this offense hum by drawing defensive attention away from both receivers and Trent. Lombardi can really earn his money here by scouring the impending cuts in other camps for a candidate.

    - He’s doing nothing but making me better, which is making me better.” Excellent. This makes my list for potential athlete quotes of the year.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I think you could add Turner right now and feel pretty good about it… he’s played in Norv Turner’s offense before and would know all of the plays/protections/terminology. For McGahee, he’d be coming in trying to learn a brand new offense and would have to get up to speed very quickly. I like how he plays when healthy, but his injury history leaves a little something to be desired. I actually like Jackson a lot as a backup. He’s a solid pass blocker and pass catcher, so you can use him on third downs, but he’s also a guy who can carry the load of the #1 back for a few games.

  • JHop

    Didn’t even think about the Norv Turner – Michael Turner connection. That would make things all the easier from signing him on to getting him worked into the system

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ WFNYRick

    Crap. That would be my fault Harv. should be “which is making the team better.”

    That’s what happens when you are transcribing from a recorder at 2:30 in the morning.

  • Bryan

    I am not too worried about Lewis. He quickly became a fan favorite by performing well in the preseason games, but he is hardly irreplaceable. As Harv noted, there will be a ton of “change of pace” guys available as teams start to whittle their rosters.

    The line injuries scare me the most.

  • JHop

    Now having shown that Chud & Turner can take a raw but extremely athletic guy and make him a legitimate threat at TE, it would boggle my mind if they don’t attempt to do the same with a similar player. For the TE position, if you put an athletic guy in the right system with a hard-throwing QB, success comes pretty easily.

    That’s what the Patriots are doing right now. They lost Gronk and Hernandez and were left with a roster full of blocking-types at TE, so they brought in UDFA Zac Sudfeld – another extremely raw but extremely athletic guy. In fact, reporters up here in New England are already calling him “Baby Gronk”.

  • Harv 21

    Dang. Can I keep it on the list anyway?

  • Harv 21

    I think he’s been training for rugby, Jim, and not on football skills. And a recent piece on him in SI said he wasn’t even devoting himself sufficiently to that to make the U.S. squad he was shooting for. I’d rather have almost any promising early 20s RB who’s recently excelled at football than Clarett. What, is Johnny Rodgers busy or are you one of them Buckeye sentimentalists?

  • jpftribe

    Concerned about the line as well, and will take another opportunity to criticize Lombardi for trading away the pick that could have been Barrett Jones in the fourth round.

    But my God, what a difference a competent coaching staff makes. Yeah it’s preseason and all that, but 37-3 with our starters against their starters in less than 3 quarters of football is pretty encouraging.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Also didn’t think of the Turner/Turner point… interesting!

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Love Gilkey’s story. This is right in line with everything that’s been said about him. Will be easy to root for.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    While obviously multiple injuries at one position will be rough on any time, isn’t that one of the nicest things about these Browns? Outside of DBs (and even there it’s not absolutely horrible) there seems to be good depth all around.

    Here’s the if everyone’s healthy second team:
    QB Campbell, RB Lewis/Ogbonnoya
    WR Bess/Benjamin/Nelson, TE Davis/Barnbridge
    OL Pinkston, Gilkey, Alford, Miller, Cousins
    DL Bryant/Winn/Hughes
    LB Mingo/Fort/Groves/JMJ

    Sure, losing Hardesty/Lewis is rough, but are they better, let alone that much better than Jackson/Ogbi? I think most teams would be quite content to have those two as their backups even after two bad injuries.

  • bossman09

    Here is a crazy idea! Just sign a legit fullback and put Obi back into the running back rotation. Problem solved.

  • EveryBuckeyeIsAmazing

    Maybe bring in Troy Smith to play QB, and Brian Robiskie as WR?

  • Harv 21

    You know who you want. Don’t be shy … go on, say it while we all genuflect. C’mon … if we all pray hard enough and maybe murmur his name together he’ll come back and save us all.

  • JHop

    That TE depth scares the hell out of me. There has to be some absurdly athletic (and raw), still unsigned undrafted free agent rookie TE out there who can fill the same shoes as Cameron.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    im sentimental toward a person who had it all, lost it all, and has built himself back up. yes i am sentimental in that way.

    further, what the damage done by working him out? what is lost? 30 minutes of an assistant coach’s time? measure that risk against the potential best case and i’m hard-pressed to understand why anyone would piss on the idea.

  • humboldt

    I vote to keep it. The quote was the verbal equivalent of jimkanicki’s avatar logo

  • Robbie S

    Or we could sign Vickers and put Obi back at RB!

    It had to be said…

  • Pmink711

    Give Maysonet a shot. Watched him at Stony Brook University for two years. You won’t be disappointed.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    ATM Machine.