Q: This team is as brittle as a frozen Kleenex. What’s with the nonstop parade of injuries? People get hurt in camp every year, but the Browns have had EIGHTEEN in just 12 days. And that doesn’t even account for Marquise Goodwin’s blood clots or Michael Woods II’s Achilles from the offseason. Are they out of football shape or is this just an epidemic of haplessness and misfortune?
A: I struggle with this issue every year because it’s a difficult one.
Yes, there are a lot of guys not practicing with injuries. No, I don’t think it’s the organization’s fault or the players being out of shape. And, no, I don’t think many of the injuries, to this point, will linger well into the regular season.
Guys get hurt in training camp. It’s the nature of the sport and practicing at this intensity for the first time in nearly a year. As an organization, the Browns rely on sports science and believe in a longer acclimation period to help reduce serious injuries.
I’d feel differently if coach Kevin Stefanski were running a physical camp that included a lot of tackling and guys were getting hurt because of that. But I don’t think calf strains, ankle sprains, hamstring pulls and knee surgeries would be alleviated if Stefanski decided to have the players hit more.
Q: When are the Browns cutting Anthony Schwartz? Let’s create a roster spot for someone else who can actually consistently play.
A: I believe you can mark your calendar for Aug. 29. That’s the one and only preseason cutdown day — a change from multiple cuts in the past — and I’d be shocked if general manager Andrew Berry doesn’t give Schwartz the full training camp and preseason to try to make the team. However, I don’t think Schwartz will do enough to win a job.
He’s just been too inconsistent in his two seasons since being a third-round pick. His speed continues to excite the Browns and get him a longer look, but it still hasn’t translated into enough big plays. Perhaps that will change in the next three weeks, but it would be a surprise.
Q: Do we have a sense on how long Greg Newsome II will be out? When did he even get hurt?
A: Stefanski called the groin injury day-to-day, and Newsome has worked on the side during the last two practices. He was injured in the Aug. 1 practice before the Hall of Fame Game and didn’t finish the session. It doesn’t seem like anything that should sideline him for long, or jeopardize the start of the regular season.
Q: Does Jordan Kunaszyk have a chance to get serious playing time or even a starting role at LB?
— John Palazzo
A: First of all, nice to run into you at the Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Kunaszyk’s role will depend a ton on the health and availability of Anthony Walker Jr. and Sione Takitaki. As the pair has rehabbed from season-ending injuries suffered a year ago, Kunaszyk has been a staple in the first-team base defense and often in the starting nickel package. I’d expect him to return to a reserve/special teams role if both Walker and Takitaki are ready for the opener. If either is out or limited, I’d expect Kunaszyk to be part of the rotation, including the possibility of starting at middle linebacker.
Q: Any updates on Jaedon Darden? I know he hasn’t been practicing.
A: Just that he’s working on the side with the rest of the walking wounded with a leg injury.
This is disappointing for the Browns, as Darden was off to a good start in camp, making several plays as a receiver. He can also return, which would make him the obvious choice if Jakeem Grant Sr. doesn’t make it back from a torn Achilles tendon. Grant participated in team drills for the first time Monday as a receiver and returner but was dragging his leg after practice. Perhaps that’s normal after an increase in practice reps and intensity, but the Browns must have a backup plan if Grant isn’t able to return to his Pro Bowl form.
Darden could still be that plan but has lost valuable practice time.
Q: Your thoughts on signing vet defensive tackle Shelby Harris? He’s played in a 3-4 his whole career at a high level. Imagine him in Jim Schwartz’s wide 9 with this defensive line. In a 3-4 he graded 70s to 80s or more in every year but twice.
A: The Browns didn’t sign him after his visit so they probably weren’t blown away. But he’s a good name to remember if injury strikes the interior of the line. (UPDATED: The Browns agreed Wednesday to sign him to a one-year contract.)
It would be interesting to see how Schwartz would use Harris. He’s 6-foot-2, 290 pounds, so he’d be asked to play on the inside in the 4-3 despite his history. But Schwartz wants all his linemen to attack, so a lack of ideal size may not be a problem and his pass rush success (24.5 sacks in eight years) would be useful from inside.
Q: Have any undrafted free agents stood out to you on the field or has the coaching staff mentioned being happily surprised or impressed by what any of them have done? S Ronnie Hickman and RB Hassan Hall seemed like excellent signings. And a few things have been talked about regarding DE Lonnie Phelps, DB Tanner McCalister and LB Mohamoud Diabate. But there’s been virtually nothing that’s come from Browns coverage about TE Thomas Greaney, DE Jeremiah Martin, CB Caleb Biggers or LB Charlie Thomas III.
A: The coaches have been careful not to single out too many players, so I’ll tell you what I think.
Hall has a chance to stick. He’s more explosive than John Kelly Jr. and is battling Demetric Felton for the No. 3 spot. Felton has value but is limited. Of course, the depth chart could change if Jerome Ford is sidelined for an extended period with a hamstring injury that forced him to leave practice Monday.
Hickman is in a similar boat but must beat out D’Anthony Bell and Bubba Bolden.
Diabate has great size and shows up in practice. I didn’t see a ton from him vs. the Jets but would expect him to be a candidate for the practice squad. I feel the same way about Thomas.
Phelps and Martin have some burst and could be candidates to stick around with Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas out for the opener as they recover from knee injuries. Greaney and Biggers haven’t impressed me.