CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns celebrated their 13-10 win over the Steelers by adding depth to their quarterback room and they lost another player for the season.
Here’s our top Brownie Bites from the seventh victory Monday of the season
The new guy – The Browns signed quarterback Joe Flacco to their practice squad Monday. Flacco’s addition does not mean a quarterback change is in the immediate offing. “Dorian will start and Joe's role is to support this team coming in here,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “We were able to add a guy with a ton of experience. He'll be great for that room. He'll be great for this team.” Flacco, 38 and in his 16th season, was selected 18th overall by the Ravens in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft and led the franchise to their second Super Bowl title and MVP of Super Bowl XLVI. “I think that all the experience, the vet help, is going to be exponential for [Dorian Thompson-Robinson],” right guard Wyatt Teller said. “I feel like that's the hardest thing. When I was a young player, there was a lot of growing pains when it came to how to be a pro, all this other stuff. Now I will say DTR, he gets it. He got it a lot earlier than I did. I feel like if I did a little bit better job, probably wouldn't have got traded, but maybe that was political. I don't know. But I'm also thankful for that, it brought me here. But it's just one of those things where you got to be able to do your job and do it at a high level, and you have guys who've done it in Joe and stuff like that. So I'm excited.” That veteran presence will fill the void vacated by Deshaun Watson, who is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles on his right shoulder and extensive travel for Watson isn’t advised. “It's only going to help us get closer to our goals,” cornerback Greg Newsome II said. “I mean, a guy that has been to Super Bowls won the Super Bowl. It's always great to have those guys in the building, especially where our aspirations are for the end of the season is going to be good to just get his feedback on certain things. And like I said, it is perfect that he's coming at the right time, especially in this stretch that we're about to go on. And so we're definitely going to use him for sure to help us get there.” Flacco, who has 99 regular season wins, played last season for the New York Jets where he completed 57.6% of his passes for 1,051 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions while going 1-3 in his four starts. Flacco threw for four touchdowns last September in a Jets 31-30 come-from-behind victory at Cleveland Browns Stadium. He worked out on Friday. “The workout looked good,” Stefanski said. “Kept himself in good shape. As you know, there's different guys have different skillsets and those type of things, but just a guy that has seen a lot, has played in different systems, feel like he can bring value to that room.” Flacco, who went 18-3 in his career against the Browns, threw for 4,945 yards with 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 21 games. His passer rating against Cleveland was 89.3. To make room for Flacco, receiver Trinity Benson was released from the practice squad. “We're just going to continue to bring Joe along like we do all of our players,” Stefanski said. “It's really, you look up and down our roster, there's a lot of guys that got here after training camp and after the season started. So that's what we do. He's going to meet extra with our coaches and get him up to speed.”
Another loss – Safety Rodney McLeod will require biceps surgery and has been lost for the season Stefanski announced. “Just watching that guy work, watching him in the meeting room on the practice field during the games, just an amazing teammate,” Stefanski said. “So I feel for him, he'll get fixed up and then he'll be back out here helping his teammates, but really feel for Rod in this situation.” McLeod suffered the injury in the third quarter and was quickly ruled out. “It'll be impossible for somebody to fill his role, but as a collective group, everybody has to find a way to chip in and become even more vocal leaders and everything like that,” Newsome said. “So it's not going to be an easy task for sure, but I think we got the right guys in the building to be able to fulfill [it].” McLeod is the sixth key contributor lost for the season joining receiver/returner Jakeem Grant, right tackle Jack Conklin, running back Nick Chubb, linebacker Jacob Phillips and quarterback Deshaun Watson. “I know there's been a lot of injuries. It's kind of crazy when you think about it,” Teller said. “Watching Nick come out of the tunnel yesterday, kind of got a little emotional too. But it's just one of those things. The NFL is, one, the turnover year-to-year is crazy, but also the injuries you go through every year, and as much as I've had the same starting five for the past—obviously changing your centers and stuff like that—but the four core and we've all had injuries, we've all been out, we've all had to be able to play with guys that we haven't been able to spend years with. So we all have to be able to handle it.”
Jumping on the JUGS – Tight end David Njoku was candid about dropping multiple passes in the locker room Sunday. “Very ugly game, especially on my behalf,” Njoku said after the game. “That's unacceptable.” Njoku pledged to go home and work on the JUGS machine, which he did. “I can confirm he hit the JUGS machine,” Stefanski said. “He FaceTimed me from his house on the Jugs machine. We have a ton of confidence in Dave. We're going to continue to throw in the ball. He comes through for us. Obviously he's hard on himself. That was a pretty big 11-yard gain there at the end, so we're always going to go to Dave.” Njoku caught a season high seven passes for 56 yards in the win, but was unable to haul in a potential touchdown in the second quarter that went off his hands. “We have exceptional confidence in each other even though what I displayed was unacceptable,” Njoku said. “My teammates, the receivers, the running backs, everybody, they're trying to pick each other up, myself included, and just find a way to get the job done.”
Tackle rotation – As a means of neutralizing Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt, the Browns rotated Dawand Jones in at right tackle for passing downs. “It’s amazing to be able to go out there as a rookie and do that to one of the elite pass rushers in the league and in history,” Teller said. “But that's why we brought him in. We brought him in to be able to be a physical monster out there to where you can even grab his arm and it's so long that it's going to take three tries to get around. But it's a talented front and to be able to execute like that, even with the rotation, and Geron at left tackle, it's special and it shows you how good coach is, but also how good the scheme is for us.” The Browns allowed just one sack, and Stefanski attributed that to being a coverage sack. “I thought those guys did a great job,” Stefanski said. “I think the guys that were involved in the protection, the chips on the edges did a nice job, and then tried to play on time in the pass game. Because that’s a very, very good pass rush.” Jones played 30 snaps or 40% while James Hudson played the other 45 while Geron Christian played all 75 snaps at left tackle. “Geron’s been playing hard, he's been doing a lot of good things,” Teller said. “At the end of the day to be able to pick up where he did and what he's been doing and learn the offense in that short amount of time, it just shows you how smart and talented Geron is. At the end of the day, it's not easy learning new plays, but a lot of the league is the same stuff. There's only so many six-man pros and five-man pros, you know what I mean, running the ball versus this front, even though it might be called something different, it's basically along the same thing.”
Kardiac Kids 2.0 – The Browns improved to 4-2 in games decided by 4 or fewer points this season and they have won four of their games in the last two minutes this season. “I just think that's this football team,” Stefanski said. “These guys lock in when we have a job to do. We have great situational awareness and we just focus on our job.” Opponents are outscoring the Browns in the first quarter 69-33, but Cleveland takes over from there with an 87-36 advantage in the second quarter, 48-27 in the third and 59-48 in the fourth. “It just proves everything that we're just trying to show and that's that we're the best defense in the league,” Newsome said. “And you earn those stripes, not in the first quarter, not in the second quarter, third quarter. You earn that in the fourth quarter in big moments. So I think it just shows the resiliency that we play with.”
Playoff race – If the NFL playoffs were to begin next weekend, the Browns at 7-3 would be the No. 5 seed in the AFC and travel to Miami to play the No. 4 seed Dolphins. Through Sunday’s games, the 7-2 Chiefs, who play the 8-1 Eagles in a Super Bowl rematch Monday night, remains No. 1 followed by 8-3 Baltimore. Jacksonville is third. Houston and Pittsburgh are sixth and seventh.
Injury report – Linebacker Anthony Walker is “week to week” with a hamstring injury according to Stefanski. As previously mentioned, Mcleod is out for the season due to the biceps injury.