Browns-Patriots: Strategy and Personnel

The Browns injury problems are taking their toll in many different ways...


The Browns placed middle linebacker Andra Davis on injured reserve with a torn left MCL. Barry Gardner will replace Davis. To take Davis' roster spot, the Browns signed LB Sherrod Coates, who played strictly on special teams for Cleveland in 2003. He was cut at the end of the preseason this year.

The Browns also signed QB Nate Hybl, LB Deryck Toles and RB Dante Brown to the practice squad. Hybl spent most of 2003 on the active roster but was waived at the end of training camp.

Luke McCown is likely to start at quarterback for the Browns because of injuries to Jeff Garcia and Kelly Holcomb. McCown's only pass this season came on an unsuccessful Hail Mary against Dallas.

Lewis Sanders, a once-promising cornerback now relegated to special teams, may have to start because of injuries to Daylon McCutcheon and backup Michael Lehan.

Lehan's injury means the Browns will need to find another gunner on the punt-coverage team. Leigh Bodden is hurt. Chris Crocker may be pressed into action.

Other Injury News

  • QB Jeff Garcia is making slow progress with his strained rotator cuff and is not expected to be available Sunday except for an emergency.
     
  • QB Kelly Holcomb's cracked ribs make him a longshot to play against the Patriots.
     
  • RB Lee Suggs did not practice Wednesday because of turf toe. He is questionable.
     
  • CB Daylon McCutcheon separated his shoulder against the Bengals. He kept playing but all but ruled himself out of Sunday's game.
     
  • WR Andre Davis did not practice because of turf toe and was moved to the injured reserve list on Wednesday
     

GAME PLAN: The Browns will hope their defense bounces back from last week's debacle against Cincinnati. With Luke McCown likely to make his starting debut, the Browns will a superb performance from their defense to have any chance. It won't be easy. Rudi Johnson tore up the Browns for 202 yards last week, and Corey Dillon is even better. Somehow, the Browns will try to knock the unflappable Tom Brady off his game. Offensively, the Browns hope they can establish a running game to take the pressure off McCown. McCown has an excellent arm, athletic ability and is regarded as being a savvy player, but he hasn't faced anything like the Patriots defense. His goal isn't to win the game, just not to lose it.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

  • Browns LT Ross Verba vs. Patriots DE Richard Seymour. Seymour has four sacks and 51 tackles this year and is a disruptive force. Verba has played reasonably well this year. It will be his job to keep Seymour from punishing McCown, whose skinny frame is not conducive to a lot of pounding.
     
  • Browns MLB Barry Gardner vs. Patriots RB Corey Dillon. Gardner has decent speed and is smart, but he isn't a big hitter. Dillon has averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Gardner will have to make sure he doesn't overpursue Dillon, an excellent cutback runner.

 


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