Browns-Chargers: Merriman, Browns Vets Out

The Chargers won't have ace defender Shawne Merriman, but the Browns are ailing as well. Here are notes on players on both teams as the Browns begin to focus on their upcoming challenge...

Are the Browns' elder statesmen starting to break down?

Four veterans either missed or were injured in the team's win over the Jets -- all of them over 30.

Tackle Ryan Tucker, 31, missed the game with an unspecified malady, and his status is week to week.

Linebacker Willie McGinest, who will be 35 in December, limped off with an ankle injury. McGinest previously struggled with a calf problem.

Guard Joe Andruzzi, 31, needed an MRI exam on an injured left knee. He seems very doubtful for this weekend's game in San Diego.

And defensive end Orpheus Roye, 33, left the Jets game early with a hamstring injury and did not return. After starting 16 games in 2005 -- after which he was given a new contract -- Roye has had shoulder and hamstring problems.

Age may be a coincidence in the injuries. Gary Baxter and LeCharles Bentley are done for the season, and they're both in their 20s.

But some coaches believe that older players are more prone to breaking down, and it's entirely possible the Browns are starting to see that happen to some of their vets.


MERRIMAN ON THE SIDELINES: Chargers Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman has declined to appeal his positive drug test for the steroid nandrolone. He will begin serving a four-game suspension Sunday, missing the home contest against the Cleveland Browns.

Merriman, whose 8.5 sacks is tied for the NFL lead, was to present his case to the league on Nov. 7. His defense was he unknowingly ingested a tainted nutritional supplement, which caused the positive test.

But Merriman's chances of overturning the decision were slim, so the second-year pro will not only skip Sunday's game, but ones against the Bengals, Broncos and Raiders. He is eligible to play again on Dec. 3 in Buffalo.

The Chargers, at 5-2, are tied with the Broncos atop the AFC West.

Once Merriman's suspension starts, he is banned from working out or attending practices at Chargers Park. He's expected to address the team Wednesday before his suspension begins.

Merriman was the NFL's rookie defensive player of the year in 2005 when collecting a team-high 10 sacks. He quickly gained notoriety for his Pro Bowl caliber play and flamboyant manner in which he celebrates each sack with his Lights Out dance.

Merriman could be replaced by Carlos Polk or Marques Harris, depending on the health of Shaun Phillips, the other starting outside linebacker. Phillips is nursing a sore ankle and will likely be listed as doubtful for Sunday's game on Wednesday's injury report.

Since the news of his test leaked, Merriman has been adamant about presenting his story. He said he would feel cheated if he's unable to do that.

"Yeah, I would feel like that," he said earlier this week. "I didn't get a chance to finish out the process that I was trying to achieve, of course. But at the same time it's not about me proving a point or proving anything anymore. It's about me playing football."


--QB Charlie Frye had a season-low 15 attempts in the win over the Jets. That number was more a result of the Browns finally committing the run, but it also was a smart move by new coordinator Jeff Davidson because it kept Frye from being hit often. Look for Frye's pass total to be in the low 20s the rest of the season.

--RB Reuben Droughns should be the main beneficiary in the change in offensive coordinators. Droughns will get 25-30 carries per game going forward, which should increase his chances for 100-yard games and touchdowns.

--WR Joe Jurevicius is finally in the starting lineup, but will probably be used as a possession receiver on shorter routes. With the Browns committing to running the ball, Jurevicius' role will be to move the chains on third down.

--TE Kellen Winslow remains one of the team's dominant forces. Winslow had seven more catches against the Jets and continues to lead the NFL's tight ends in receptions with 40.

--CB Daven Holly figures to start the rest of the year with Gary Baxter done with two severe knee injuries. Holly has been protected well in Romeo Crennel's system, as the Browns defense has relied heavily on cover-two with the emphasis on corners keeping the play in front of them.

--LB Kamerion Wimbley has progressed steadily throughout his rookie season. Wimbley rushes the passer well and often seems to be around the ball. Comparisons to Peter Boulware seem to be right on the mark.

--S Brian Russell is having his best season. Russell is the quarterback of the secondary, and has been a rock in keeping things together on the back end. Russell won't get Pro Bowl votes because he's not flashy, but he is dependable.

--FB Lawrence Vickers figures to return to special teams play following the departure of offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon. Vickers had been involved in some key offensive plays under Carthon, but will not be as involved under Jeff Davidson.

--RB Jerome Harrison impressed in preseason but has been strangely inactive the past two games. Harrison seemed to be a nice change of pace to Reuben Droughns, but he's barely played.


--QB Philip Rivers did what was asked in Sunday's win - which was mainly giving the ball to LaDainian Tomlinson and not turning it over. Rivers was an effective 15-of-23 for 206 yards and a score. Rivers' starting mark is at 5-2 and it's clear the coaches and teammates' confidence in the first-year starter has grown with each game.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson had the best game of his season, and served notice with it. Tomlinson rushed for 183 yards and two scores - added 57 yards and a touchdown through the air - as the offense got back to being physical. Tomlinson hadn't rushed for 100 yards since the season-opener, so it was important to get that - and more - against the Rams.

--TE Antonio Gates had team highs in receptions (five) and yards (66) as Rivers continues to look his way, especially on third downs. Gates could be in line for some even bigger games if the defense starts keeping a closer eye on Tomlinson running the ball

--WR Keenan McCardell is still looking for his first score, as it seems he's on down the list for end zone options with Tomlinson, Gates and others involved. He did have two catches for 11 yards.

--WR Eric Parker continues to give the Chargers the tough catches in critical spots in drives - and he often does so by slinging his slight body around to do it. Parker is the team's leading receiver at wide out with 24 receptions for 369 yards. Parker's punt return average is right at 10 yards.

--OLB Shawne Merriman tied a career-high with three sacks on Sunday, proving the controversy of his positive test for steroids wasn't a distraction. Merriman was seemingly all over the field and the defense feed off his intensity. It'll be interesting to monitor that energy level when he begins serving his potential four-game suspension.

--FS Marlon McCree was brought in for big plays and he turned one in Sunday. While the final score was lopsided the Rams were driving for a tying touchdown at the San Diego 25 when McCree swooped up a fumble and raced 79 yards for a touchdown. McCree, a free-agent pickup from the Panthers, also has an interception this year.

--DE Luis Castillo's work often gets lost behind Merriman, Jamal Williams and others but he is enjoying another solid year in his second season. He had six more tackles Sunday, giving him 40 on the year - second-best among Chargers.

--K Nate Kaeding added another field goal and is getting consistent length on his kickoffs. Kaeding has connected on 16 of his 18 field-goal attempts.

--P Mike Scifres could be headed to the Pro Bowl as he had another solid day. He leads the NFL with his 43-yard net average.

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