BEREA — The defense hasn’t been whole this season.
It’s getting closer.
No. 1 pick Myles Garrett practiced again Thursday and looks ready to make his NFL debut Sunday against the New York Jets. He suffered a high right ankle sprain Sept. 6.
“One step closer to finalizing this puzzle that we have,” free safety Jabrill Peppers said.
Garrett, a defensive end, was joined by defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who returned from a left calf injury that sidelined him Sunday against the Bengals. He’s expected to be ready to face the Jets’ seventh-ranked run offense.
“That was exciting. It is always good getting our players back,” coach Hue Jackson said. “Myles is running around. Danny is running around. It is fun. One more to go.”
The lone missing piece is outside linebacker Jamie Collins, who remained in the concussion protocol and isn’t expected to be cleared in time for Sunday. He’s already missed two games and hasn’t begun physical activity yet, according to Jackson.
“No question he is getting closer but just not out of the protocol yet,” Jackson said.
Shelton played his best game of the year two weeks ago with seven tackles against the Colts and should strengthen the run defense. Garrett was drafted to transform the pass rush.
“Me and Myles haven’t been able to play with each other yet at the same time,” said Shelton, who had a knee injury in the preseason. “So it’s gonna be great.
“I think he’ll have a lot of impact, so we’re just focusing on being dominant upfront so we can help out the team.”
Shelton, the No. 12 pick in 2015, had never missed a game before being held out against the Bengals.
“That sucked, man. Never want to miss a game,” he said. “I see where the coaches are looking at my best interest, but at the same time I was hurt because I wanted to be out there with my guys. But I’m looking forward to this week.”
Garrett and Shelton were limited in practice as expected. Shelton said he had no issues with the calf. Jackson said Garrett will be limited to a predetermined number of snaps against the Jets.
“He has been off for quite a while. We have to be smart about our expectations of him this weekend,” Jackson said.
Jackson predicted a “monster” season for running back Isaiah Crowell, but through four games it’s been a horror show. Crowell has 56 rushes for 134 yards, a 2.9 average and no touchdowns. His high for a game is 44 yards against the Colts.
Jackson took complete responsibility and said Crowell can’t be judged until he gets enough carries to find a rhythm.
“I believe in Isaiah Crowell. No question,” Jackson said.
“I appreciate that,” Crowell said. “I feel like it’s going to happen. I’m just being patient. That’s where I’m at with it.”
Patience hasn’t been easy for Crowell, who’s eligible to be an unrestricted free agent after the season and would like some resume-padding numbers.
“It’s really hard because just being a competitor, you want to go out there and you want to put the team in the best position for the win, and everybody has personal goals that they want to reach also,” he said. “It’s just hard when you’re trying to go out there and give it your all but you’re not really getting an opportunity to.”
SIT THIS ONE OUT
Receiver Kenny Britt (knee/groin) didn’t practice for the second straight day and appears unlikely to play against the Jets. After a rough start to his Cleveland career that’s included drops and penalties, the break might help.
“We will see how that goes for Kenny,” Jackson said. “Kenny is a pro. He will handle however this weekend unfolds for him the best. We have a lot of football to play. Kenny is going to be a huge part of that, so he has to get himself ready to go, and he will do that.”
If Britt doesn’t play, Jackson would be without his Week 1 starters at wideout. Corey Coleman is on injured reserve with a broken right hand.
“Next guy up, and we will find a way to get it done,” Jackson said.
Ricardo Louis, Sammie Coates, Rashard Higgins, newly acquired Bryce Treggs and Kasen Williams are the options. Rannell Hall is on the practice squad and could be activated.
Jackson said the rotation will be based on practice performance and game plan.
IT TAKES TIME
Left tackle Joe Thomas agrees with head of football operations Sashi Brown and Jets quarterback Josh McCown. It’s way premature to judge the Browns’ extensive rebuild.
“I don’t think it is really fair to judge Sashi and his crew or Hue and his crew after a year and four games because of the depth and significance of the teardown and the rebuild,” Thomas said.
HURTING FOR HIS HOMETOWN
Undrafted rookie safety Kai Nacua grew up just outside of Las Vegas and woke up Monday morning to news of the massacre that left 58 people dead and injured nearly 500.
“It was heartbreaking,” Nacua said. “I felt helpless.”
Nacua was born in California but raised in Henderson, Nev.
“I’m thankful that nobody I knew was hurt, but just knowing that went down in my hometown, it’s scary,” he said. “My heart aches for all the families that are affected with it. I know going back home it will be a little different feeling.”