BEREA— The Browns secondary will be without two starters this Sunday, when Peyton Manning and the Broncos take the field at FirstEnergy Stadium.
After failing to appear on the practice field Friday, the Browns announced that cornerback Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson will be out of Sunday’s game due to injuries.
Departing amidst Cleveland’s game against Baltimore with a concussion, Haden remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol, while Gipson is dealing with an ankle injury he too sustained when the Browns took on the Ravens.
Browns head coach Mike Pettine said that it will certainly be a tough task replacing the two 2014 Pro Bowlers, but he has faith in the "next man up" philosophy.
“That’s tough to have two guys that are Pro Bowl guys not out there for you," Pettine said. "We’re confident in the depth in the room and we’ve gotten a lot of quality reps with those guys."
The "guys" Pettine mentioned who will be replacing Haden and Gipson, respectively, are Pierre Desir at corner and Jordan Poyer at safety, each of whom impressed their head coach with their performances.
"I thought Jordan Poyer stepped up last week and played very well. Got a game ball against Baltimore," Pettine said. "Pierre's done some good things and he’s relentless in his preparation. It’s never ideal when you're down guys, but we’re confident in the depth and how those guys prepare."
Though he held out hope that Haden and Gipson could play when speaking to the media on Thursday, Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said the coaching staff- along with Desir, Poyer and others-- had plenty of time to prepare for this “Plan B” scenario.
“When a guy gets hurt in game, a lot of times those guys don’t get a lot of reps and you’re adjusting on the fly with them,” O’Neil said. “If (Haden and Gipson) can’t go, then the guys that are going to replace them will be more prepared than if they got hurt in game.”
Agreeing with Pettine's earlier assessment, O'Neil too was happy with the way the replacement defensive backs performed on such short notice.
“It was good to see those guys step into bigger roles than what they might have been expected going into the year and do some good things for us defensively,” O’Neil said.
Also missing for the Browns defense this week will be linebacker Craig Robertson, who missed last week’s game with an ankle injury-- an injury Pettine had a hard time swallowing.
"Craig’s injury was very unfortunate just because he was playing extremely well," Pettine said. "(We're) looking forward to getting him back."
In the mean time, Pettine, along with O'Neil, said that the inside linebacker position is one of concern for the Browns, despite the efforts of Tank Carder, who has spent the most time in Robertson's role.
“We’re thin at the inside backer position with Craig being down,” O’Neil said. “Tank went in there and made some nice plays for us.”
Carder has helped the linebacker group, but Pettine believes that others need to step up to the plate during this time of semi-desperation.
"I think we’ve done some good things with that group and think they’ve also, and they know it, contributed to some of the issues that we’ve had," Pettine said. "The defense has to raise their level of play, especially against an opponent like this.”
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