BEREA—The Browns will be missing Pro Bowl safety Tashaun Gipson on Sunday against the Ravens and linebacker Craig Robertson will miss his second-straight game. Both players suffered ankle injuries, including Gipson during the second half of last week’s loss to the Chargers.
With Gipson out, Jordan Poyer will get his first NFL start. Poyer has played in all four games as a reserve and has four tackles and a pass broken up. Mike Pettine has a lot of confidence in Poyer as he’s gained a lot of experience working with the ones while Gipson was holding out during most of the off-season in a contract dispute.
“He’s gotten a lot of reps with Gip not being here in the off -season,” Pettine said. “That was helpful and when Whit (Donte Whitner_ was rested, he’s gotten a lot of work with the ones. He prides himself with the preparation week in and does a good job for us.”
Poyer is in his third season with the Browns after coming over from the Eagles. Last season, Poyer had nine tackles and a forced fumble.
Besides Gipson and Robertson out, running back Shaun Draughn is doubtful with a back injury. He did not practice all week.(back) were not on the field
AFC North Begins:If the Browns are going to still salvage their 2015 season they know it starts this week.
The Browns will play their first of six AFC North games this Sunday starting with the Ravens. Six of the 16 regular season games are within the division. In 2014, the Browns were 2-4 in the AFC North, splitting with the Steelers and Bengals and losing both contests with the Ravens.
Mike Pettine knows in order for the Browns to have a chance to win the division, they have to have a winning record in the division.
And Pettine relishes the opportunity in front of the Browns.
“For sure. I love our division games,” Pettine said. “It is three great rivalries. Just for what I talked about the other day – The Battle of Ohio, Pittsburgh and the Ravens due to history – it is just a different feel. I know every game has its own storyline. To me, the division games are truly set apart from all the other ones. That is why we try to educate the players on it. I know the veteran guys sense it.”
Pettine knows from experience how the Ravens view the AFC North games.
“The mentality of their franchise – I was there, I spent my first seven years of my NFL career (in Baltimore),” he said. “I have been there. I know the mentality. You see it from Pittsburgh. It is there in Cincinnati. That is why, top to bottom, the competitiveness, I would put it up against any other one in the league.”
Pettine knows there’s a little extra edge for games in the AFC North.
“I said yesterday, it is a double chinstrap game,” he said. “If you don’t, you get embarrassed. You look at last year against Cincinnati. We had it the first game and didn’t the second. You saw the result. Hopefully, it shows up on the field, but our guys sense it.”
Reinforcements Coming: DB Joe Haden sat out last week, but he is questionable for this week’s game, but Pettine said Haden will work see how he’s doing on Saturday.
“I’m going to talk to joe Saturday and see how we wants to handle it,” Pettine said. “He’s a week away from (the injury) and we might have a better idea on Saturday, he might have a better handle on it.”
Pettine said he seemed to fare pretty well in practice on Friday.
“He handled a couple of balls today.”
Pettine said the main factor will be how Haden feels wearing the protection affects his motion, as well as the pain tolerance. If Haden is unable to go, he likely will be replaced by DB Pierre Desir. DB K’Waun Williams is expected to return this week, as well to the slot.
Also questionable is DL Desmond Bryant (shoulder), who practiced on a limited basis. Pettine was asked what the return of Bryant would mean to the front seven. Bryant missed the past two games.
“To have a guy who’s been a quality starter for us in a week that we need it against their front,” Pettine said. “We know the game plan and they’re going to want to run the football, their mentality to pound the football at to have Des out there will be an important part (for our defense).”
Bryant wouldn’t comment on where he is with the injury, but did say he looks forward to getting back on the field sooner than later.
“I’ve played this game for as long as I can remember,” Bryant said. “Every weekend I look forward to the opportunity to showcase what I can do if I get the chance.”
LB Scott Solomon is also a possibility for returning this week after injuring his ankle in the first series of the first game.
“What (Solomon) brings is something we’re missing,” Pettine said. “We looked forward to him all off-season with him setting the edge. We’ll see how much he can go. He got a decent workload (this week).”
Pettine thinks Solomon will bring a spark to the defense when he does return.
“It’s something we’ve missed,” he said. “H. His energy. He’s a guy playing with his hair on fire. He brings a spark.”
WR Brian Hartline was limited all week and is questionable. However, he practiced Friday with a red non-contact jersey on.
Turbin Debut?: Another player who possibly will return this week for the first time is RB Robert Turbin. He went through the week practicing and is questionable. Pettine said if he plays he will likely be transitioned into the offense. With Draughn likely out, Turbin would be the third back.
“Don’t think he’d walk in and get a significant work load,” Pettine said. “That could be a question dow the road but could be a good problem down the road.
“We’re looking forward to getting him out there,” Pettine said. “He’s looked good—most of his reps have been on the scout team—but what we saw of him on tape in Seattle and why we wanted to bring him here was evident.”
Turbin was asked if he thinks he’ll play this week.
“I certainly hope so,” Turbin said. “My goal is to be able to play some this Sunday. Obviously Joe (Sheehan) and those guys and coach Pett will make the decision, ultimately this weekend. I am hopeful. They are hopeful and we will just see how the rest of the week goes with practice.”