BEREA — Coach Hue Jackson wants the FirstEnergy Stadium crowd to drown out Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers on Sunday.
“Excited to play in front of our fans again, in front of our home crowd,” he said Wednesday. “They have been outstanding attending the game. I do have a challenge to them, though. I would like for them to get in the stands before the game starts, and I want them to be as loud as they have ever been.
“This week our players will need that. We need that assistance for them. They can help us this week by being at their best, as well.”
The reason for the plea is Rivers. The seven-time Pro Bowler is off to a great start by completing 70.1 percent for 1,495 yards, 13 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 111.8 rating.
“He is one of the best that have played the game,” Jackson said. “It does not look like he is slowing down at all. He is one of the top quarterbacks in this league, bar none.
“We need 12 people when they are on offense, and the 12th person is going to be our crowd.”
Rivers likes to stand at the line of scrimmage, call out the defense’s coverage and change the play. Middle linebacker Joe Schobert heard him do just that in the meeting last season in Los Angeles.
“We’ve just got to do a better job of bogeying and disguising and making it harder for him to do that,” Schobert said. “I think being at home this year, where it will be harder for him to make checks if we have a loud crowd, will be an advantage to us. It will be harder for them to change every single play that will be perfectly what they want.”
The Browns are 2-0-1 at home, and quarterback Baker Mayfield is looking forward to rebuilding a strong advantage on the lakefront.
“We feed off of the crowd’s energy,” he said. “We need to continue that, and this needs to be a place that people need to fear coming to play. It needs to be so loud that they can’t communicate, and it needs to be a harsh place for an offense to come in.
“It needs to be exciting when our offense goes out there to keep the crowd in it. Keep building momentum. Keep stacking wins.”
THE AWARD GOES TO …
Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his blocked field goal in the 12-9 overtime victory over the Ravens.
“It means a lot. Special teams is just as important as playing offense and defense,” said Ward, who blocked a field goal and a punt at Ohio State. “It’s really just keying the ball, and once the ball is snapped, just trying to get off the edge as fast as you can.”
Ward, the No. 4 pick, has been even more impressive in his regular role on defense. He has three interceptions, three passes defensed, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 25 tackles.
He’s an early leading candidate to be Defensive Rookie of the Year and said he talks about it with Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, last year’s winner and a teammate at Ohio State.
“It definitely is a motivating factor,” Ward said. “He says I better get Defensive Rookie of the Year.”
Ward’s toughest challenger so far is Chargers safety Derwin James, the No. 17 pick out of Florida State. He has three sacks, an interception, five passes defensed and 31 tackles.
Gambling site Bovada lists James as the 5-to-2 favorite to win the award, with Ward and Colts linebacker Darius Leonard second at 3-to-1.
SEE YA SOON
Receiver Rashard Higgins thought the knee injury he suffered Sunday was minor, and was disappointed to learn it’s a medial collateral ligament sprain. Jackson said Higgins is “week to week,” and he’s expected to miss at least two games, but Higgins wasn’t willing to concede anything.
“My hope is within a week,” he said. “If it was up to me, man, I’d be out there right now.
“I’ve got a mindset, I don’t like to be hurt, I hate this feeling.”
Higgins, who was the only Browns player who didn’t practice Wednesday, has 16 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown. Undrafted rookie Derrick Willies will take his spot as the No. 3 receiver.
** Linebacker James Burgess (knee) returned to practice in a limited capacity.
Mayfield was sacked five times by the Ravens, bringing the season total to 21 between him and previous starter Tyrod Taylor. The Browns rank 29th in sacks allowed.
“We have to get rid of the sacks,” Mayfield said. “With that comes being on the same page with communication, getting the ball out quicker and just taking care of it.”
Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram presents the biggest threat this week. He has 2.5 sacks in the Chargers’ 3-2 start and had 29 over the previous three seasons.
“Obviously he can get the ball out a little quicker at times,” Jackson said of Mayfield. “We have to protect him better. We’ve got to be in the right place on routes. We have to communicate better.
“We do not want our quarterback getting sacked five times.”
After trying three 2-point conversions against the Raiders and talking about a new aggressive approach, Jackson didn’t go for 2 after the second-quarter touchdown against the Ravens.
“It is all about the game,” he said. “I knew we were playing one of the better defenses so I thought every point mattered.”
** For the Chargers, defensive end Joey Bosa (foot), receiver Travis Benjamin (foot), linebacker Jatavis Brown (groin) and linebacker Kyzir White (knee) didn’t practice. Bosa won’t play.
** Cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon was re-signed to the practice squad.