BEREA—Barring a setback before Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, the Browns are probably as healthy as they’ve been all season. Only three players were questionable and all are expected to play, unless they are healthy scratches due to the 46-man game day roster limit.
No area will be more noticed than the secondary. The expected players to start the season have not been on the field at the same time since the season opener against Philadelphia. Joe Haden missed the second through fifth games serving a substance abuse suspension. Before Haden returned, Dimitri Patterson suffered a high ankle sprain in the fifth game against the Giants.
Patterson has missed the past seven games, but he has practiced the past two weeks and is expected to be back on the field in his role as the third cornerback behind Haden and Sheldon Brown. Usama Young, who has missed the Raider’s game is expected to return. Patterso is probable.
“(Patterson) practiced well Wednesday, so we’ll have to see on Sunday how he is,” Shurmur said.
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is anxious to get all of the players back.
“It will be good,” Jauron said. “Dimitri has had a couple of good days of practice. Usama is back, so it will make for some tough decisions for Coach Shurmur. We’ll just have to see.”
Shurmur said the coaches will have to decide who will be active in the secondary as Buster Skrine, Tashaun Gipson, Ray Ventrone, Trevin Wade, Johnson Bademosi and Eric Hagg have all played key roles filling in on defense and on special teams.
“We’ll have decisions to make as to who we will start,” Shurmur said. “Those are good decisions we have to make as far as coaches.”
The Browns are hoping the near strength of the secondary will help improve the defense’s play. Currently, the Browns pass defense is 24th in the NFL after being second in the NFL last season.
Brown is coming off one of his best games where he had five tackles, broke up four passes and intercepted a pass that stopped the Raiders drive to tie the game or take the lead. After the interception, the Browns drove the length of the field to put the game away.
The Chiefs big play receiver is Dwayne Bowe and Haden is expected to get the assignment. Shurmur is confident that Haden will be able to handle the job.
“(Bowe’s) a big physical guy, which makes it tough for corners who aren’t as big,” Shurmur said. “But Joe finds a way and body position is very important.”
Bowe has 57 receptions for 731 yards with three touchdowns.
If Haden covers Bowe throughout the course of the game, leaving Brown, Patterson and the rest of the corners to cover Dexter McCluster and Jon Baldwin.
Jauron said if a team’s trying to pick on Brown, they could regret it.
“If (the Raiders) were going to go away from Joe and go at Sheldon they might want to think that one over,” Jauron said. “I think Sheldon played well in all areas, tackling, coverage, all phases.”
Jauron was asked if the 33-year old Brown was the slowest afoot among the Browns defensive backs, but sidestepped the question.
“I don’t know that,” Jauron said. “I remember when (former NFL cornerback) David Brown, who I worked with late in his career,(with Green Bay) and I remember (Coach) Lindy Infante asked what (Brown’s) 40-yard dash time was.
“We decided we didn’t want to know what he runs the 40 in,” he said. “You just couldn’t beat him because he knows how to play. (Brown) clearly understands the game and knows how to play the game.
“Last week, the number of times he was getting his hands on the ball so many times is rare.”
Thomas Wins Walter Payton Award after Blasting Hillis: Browns LT Joe Thomas was named the Browns 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year award. He is the only Browns player to win the honor twice as he was selected in 2010.
The award recognizes a player’s off the field community service activities as well as his playing excellence. The three NFL finalists will be announced later and the winner will be recognized as the NFL Man of the Year at the Super Bowl. In 2009, Mike Furrey was one of the three finalists and is the only Browns player to make it that far.
Thomas’ award was announced a day after he publicly blasted former Browns RB Peyton Hillis for his demeanor with the team in 2011.
“(Hillis) was everything people knew about him—hardworking, blue-collar, tough, would do anything for anybody on the team,” Thomas said Wednesday. “All he cared about was winning, and then all of a sudden the next year all he cared about was trying to get his new contract.”
Shurmur was asked about Thomas’ comments.
“I’d prefer our players didn’t talk about those things, but that’s not the case.”
Return of Daboll: This Sunday marks the return of former Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who serves in the same capacity with the Chiefs.
Shurmur said the Browns have watched what he has done in the past.
“Most coordinators leave a footprint and we track what they’ve done.”
Jauron said that Daboll is known for running a lot of gadget plays.
“You hope you’re prepared,” Jauron said. “He does some very creative things and they do a nice job in those things.”
Childress on Gordon: Offensive coordinator Brad Childress said that rookie WR Josh Gordon has come a long way, but he thinks it’s just the beginning.
“I hope we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg with him,” Childress said. “He has been a great note taker and a very studious guy, but he has that God-given ability to play.”
Childress said he sees defenses starting to plan against Gordon.
“We’re seeing coverage being rolled his way.”
Pinkston Update: LG Jason Pinkston posted on his twitter account that he was cleared by doctors to return to workouts. Pinkston was placed on season-ending injured reserve after a blood clot was discovered in his lungs.
“I talked to Jason and he seems to be doing well,” Shurmur said. “We’re tracking his progress.”
Injury Update: The Browns had all 53 of their players on the field both Wednesday and Thursday for the first time in a long time. On the official injury report, three players were listed as questionable: WR Josh Cribbs (shoulder/chest), DB Ray Ventrone (ankle) and DB Usama Young (head). Full participation and probable were: TE Jordan Cameron (groin), DB Dimitri Patterson (ankle), RB Trent Richardson (chest/rib/finger) and DL Frostee Rucker (shoulder/finger).
Honorary Captains: For Sunday’s game, former Browns DBs Ron Bolton (1976-82) and Clinton Burrell (1979-84) will serve as Honorary Captains.
Coach of the Year Named Sunday: The Browns will announce the winner of the Browns High School Coach of the Year at halftime of the Browns and Chiefs game. The finalists are: Nick Ciulli (North Royalton), Mark Campo (Westlake), Tiger LaVerde (Kirtland), Mark Iammarino (Chagrin Falls), Matt Stoll (Wellington), Jason Ward (Columbia), Matt Duffy (Willoughby South), Tom Lombardo (Highland), Al Martin (Cuyahoga Heights) and Dave McFarland (Midpark).