BEREA — Defensive end Adrian Clayborn had a sack in each of the first two games before suffering a hip injury that sidelined him for a game and slowed him for several. He’s been itching for more playing time and will get it Sunday against the Eagles after superstar Myles Garrett was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list following a positive test Friday morning.
Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said Clayborn, 32, has recovered from the injury.
“You can say he is a little bit frustrated with his reps early in the season with some guys in front of him, trying to figure out his role, but we are all working through that together,” Kiffin said. “He will have a much bigger role this week. I know he is excited about it. He mentioned that this morning. We are excited to see him, too.
“Adrian is the ultimate pro. From the time I got here, all he does is work. He stays prepared.”
Clayborn signed a two-year, $5.75 million contract as a free agent in the offseason. He was the No. 20 pick of the Buccaneers in 2011 and has 38.5 sacks in 118 games, including 52 starts.
He played a season-high 32 snaps in the opener as the No. 3 end behind Garrett and Olivier Vernon, dipped to 16 in Week 3 after the injury, didn’t play Week 4 and has hovered in the low- to mid-20s since. He has seven tackles, including three for loss.
“He is a pretty even-keel, laid-back guy, even more than me,” defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. “The hip injury did disturb his rush a little bit and production a little bit as far as that goes. Honestly, he just can’t even wait to get out there like he wants to, getting more defensive end reps hopefully, but you have to make do with the reps you get.”
Coach Kevin Stefanski didn’t declare a starter to replace Garrett, saying the coaches would use a rotation of Clayborn and Porter Gustin, who has 19 tackles and no sacks in nine games. Vernon, who had his only two sacks Nov. 1 against the Raiders, will man the other end spot.
“He is a guy that can’t help but to improve because he works so hard,” Kiffin said of Gustin. “Whether it is his off day, his nutrition, his film study or his questioning of the scheme, it is always trying to get ahead with him. Excited to see him with his opportunity and what he is going to do. You know he is going to play hard and you know he is going to be around the ball, but now he will have more opportunities to rush the passer and be able to show what he is capable of doing.”
Richardson could also slide outside to get some reps at end, like he did last year when Garrett was suspended for the final six games and Vernon dealt with a knee injury.
“I am perfectly fine with it,” Richardson said. “Whatever the team needs me to do to win, I am pretty much going to do it. Whatever Coach asks me. I know the playbook pretty well inside and out. Just be ready for anything.”
Right guard Wyatt Teller’s strained calf still bothers him and he was listed as questionable on the official injury report after being limited in practice all week.
Teller missed three games with the injury before returning last Sunday in a 10-7 win over the Texans after the bye. He didn’t have an injury designation before that game.
“I am hopeful for Wyatt, but he is definitely sore,” Stefanski said of Teller’s prospects to play against the Eagles.
If he can’t play, rookie center Nick Harris and guard Michael Dunn from the practice squad are options.
** Linebacker Mack Wilson (hip) was listed as questionable. He returned to practice in a limited capacity after sitting out Thursday.
** Stefanski remained “hopeful” right tackle Jack Conklin and kicker Cody Parkey would be activated Saturday from the COVID-19 reserve list. They were identified Wednesday as close contacts to a medical practitioner not employed by the team who tested positive.
** The Eagles activated left guard Isaac Seumalo from injured reserve and he’s expected to go back into the starting lineup. He missed six games with a knee injury.
** Eagles coach Doug Pederson said three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz probably needs more time before returning from an ankle injury.
BACK IN BUSINESS
Tight end Austin Hooper had one catch for 11 yards in blustery conditions against the Texans after missing two games following an appendectomy. He played 55 of 65 snaps and blocked for a rushing attack that gained 231 yards.
“I thought he played arguably one of his best games,” tight ends coach Drew Petzing said. “From a physicality standpoint, that is a pretty talented defense, especially the outside linebacker and defensive end position. He was singled up on those guys a number of times, and I thought he did a really nice job.
“I was really impressed with the way he came back. Really did not miss a beat, and we had him doing a lot of different jobs in the run and the pass game. I thought he played at a high level.”
THE WINNER IS …
Left tackle Jedrick Wills was named Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Week after the big running day against the Texans. He also didn’t allow a sack.
Wills was the fourth offensive lineman to win the award since it started in 2002.
“He has been playing well,” coordinator Alex Van Pelt said Thursday. “He is still a rookie so there is still a lot of room for improvement, but he has come in and he has played well. He has been available. He has done a nice job.
“We have to keep him onside. He has a little streak there of jumping offside with the false starts. Overall he is going to continue to improve each week.”
Van Pelt downplayed using quarterback Baker Mayfield in the pistol formation — a shorter drop than the shotgun — for a couple of snaps against the Texans.
“It is just something that you throw in there for window dressing, to be honest with you,” Van Pelt said. “Throw a pistol in there just to give them a different look, give them something to talk about and give them something to think about. It does not have any purpose other than that probably at this point.”
** Wilson participated in a Thanksgiving turkey drive in East Cleveland, passing out autographed pictures in a mask and gloves.