DETROIT — The Browns (0-8) are as healthy as they could hope to be at the midpoint of the season.
Rookie defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (groin) is inactive for today’s game against the Detroit Lions after being limited in practice and listed as questionable on the injury report. He’s the only injured player.
The Browns have four defensive starters back who missed the game against the Vikings in London before the bye: defensive end Myles Garrett (concussion), cornerback Jason McCourty (ankle), free safety Jabrill Peppers (toe) and defensive tackle Trevon Coley (neck).
The healthy inactives for the Browns are: quarterback Kevin Hogan, cornerback Darius Hillary, receiver Kasen Williams, defensive tackle T.Y. McGill, tight end Matt Lengel and offensive lineman Marcus Martin.
The Lions (4-4) are without a pair of starters in defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (back) and right guard T.J. Lang (concussion). Ace special teamer and former Browns draft pick Don Carey (knee) is also inactive.
(Three points of interest in today’s game)
Lions receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones give quarterback Matthew Stafford a pair of reliable and explosive targets. And they’re hot. Tate had seven catches for 113 yards Monday night against the Packers and Jones had seven for 107 and two touchdowns.
For the year, Tate leads the Lions with 50 catches for 562 yards with two touchdowns. Jones has 33 catches for 515 yards and five touchdowns.
“Those guys right there have both done a great job, and I think Marvin has done an unbelievable job about going vertical and doing it,” Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. “I don’t know that Golden gets enough credit for being as tough as he is as a wide receiver. I smile, he is a guy that I would play on defense because you can tell how tough he is.”
Jones would look good on the weak Browns receiving corps and seemed like he was headed toward a reunion with coach Hue Jackson as a free agent in 2016. But Jones would up up north.
“He is a tremendous football player,” Jackson said. “He brings a lot to their offensive football team because of his ability to make acrobatic catches and stretch the field. There is not a route that he can’t run and there is not a catch that he can’t make, so we have our hands full with him.”
RED SHOULD MEAN STOP
The red zone has been a dead zone for the Browns on both sides of the ball. The offense ranks 28th with touchdowns on just 45 percent of trips inside the 20-yard line (nine of 20). Six turnovers have been the biggest problem — twice as many as field goals made.
“We have to find a way to get the ball in the end zone a little more to have a chance over the next eight weeks,” Jackson said.
The defense has been even worse in the shadow of the goal post, ranking last by allowing touchdowns 73.9 percent of the time (17 of 23 trips). Only one trip ended without points, and the Browns haven’t forced a turnover. Williams said the defense must be better schematically and the players must improve in space.
“We have to make people kick field goals,” he said.
“We have to have less mistakes down there because it is a shorter field,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “We just have to make sure that we are perfect in our execution.”
The hope is a return to health will make a huge difference. Defensive end Myles Garrett, defensive tackle Trevon Coley, No. 1 cornerback Jason McCourty and free safety Jabrill Peppers are back after missing time with injuries.
The Lions have struggled offensively in the red zone, ranking 27th with 11 touchdowns on 24 tries (45.8 percent).
“We haven’t executed very well down there consistently,” coach Jim Caldwell said.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
At 0-8 and as 11-point underdogs, the Browns need something dramatic to end their drought and spark an upset. Special teams would be the perfect place to start, but that could be asking too much.
The Browns haven’t had a big win on special teams all season, which is unusual for a unit coached by coordinator Chris Tabor. There’s been improvement — a blocked kick and a 71-yard Matthew Dayes kickoff return in the game before the bye — but not enough to overcome a blocked punt for a touchdown, five missed kicks by rookie Zane Gonzalez and too many penalties in the return game.
The Lions won’t make it easy for Cleveland’s special teams to turn the tide. Rookie Jamal Agnew has returned two punts for touchdowns, is the NFL’s No. 1 returner at 19.4 yards and drew a comparison to Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill from Tabor. Matt Prater is a great long-distance kicker, and the Lions blocked a field goal last week.
“This is probably the fastest team that we have played by far at all positions,” Tabor said.
At least the Browns have Peppers back as a returner after missing two games with a toe injury, and he seems due to break a long one.
Point differential for the Browns this season (202-119), which ranks 30th in the NFL
Punts by the Lions last week in their 30-17 win over the Packers
Percent of third downs converted by the Browns, which ranks last in the NFL
The Browns are energized and healthy after the bye, but they still don’t have an answer for the Lions’ high-powered passing attack. Lions 26, Browns 17.