BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – A day after the loss of Deshaun Watson for the season, the focus has shifted towards the Pittsburgh Steelers and rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson taking the reins for the remainder of the schedule.
Here’s our top Brownie Bites as preparations for the Steelers continue.
Fresh start – When the Browns drafted Thompson-Robinson in the fifth round back in April, they had no intention of playing him. The loss of Watson for the season has forced their hands and the rookie is tasked with leading the Browns to the playoffs. “Obviously, our hopes and prayers are with Deshaun, but this team needs to win and they need to win right now, and that's what I'm trying to work to come in here and do,” Thompson said Thursday. Thompson-Robinson looked more comfortable and relaxed Thursday than he did the day before and the accuracy of his passes seemed to reflect that too during the open portion of practice to reporters. “Shoot, I know what to expect now,” Thompson-Robinson, who found out Tuesday he would start, said. “Unlike many other people out there, I've been in an NFL game, so I'm not stepping out there for the first time. I know all my keys, all what to look at throughout film, what to watch, who key players are on their defense and everything now. So I'm not just going out there wide-eyed anymore. I'm going out there with things to look at, things to focus on and a plan to be able to tackle.” This will be the UCLA product’s second NFL start. In Week 4 he found out 2.5 hours before kickoff he'd play and he looked like it too by completing 19 of 31 passes with three interceptions in a 28-3 loss. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt is confident Thompson-Robinson won’t be affected by his debut. “He's a confident young man,” Van Pelt said. “There's no question he was the day he got here and I see that every day. He's talented in what he does and he's had success at the college level and we're just waiting for that to show here. I don't think he's lost any confidence. If anything, he's more confident because he's going to be more prepared this time.” Thompson-Robinson spoke confidently about what people can expect to see Sunday against the Steelers. “It's going to be night and day,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Just my progression, the maturity, how I've handled the week this far and all the weeks before, just being able to learn from that first experience. I think it's going to help me a bunch.”
Been there, done that – Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz knows all about seeing his team lose their franchise quarterback while trying to make a playoff run. It happened in 2017 with the Philadelphia Eagles when Carson Wentz was lost for the season and Nick Foles took over. “One of the benefits of being in this league for so long, 31 years now, you've seen an awful lot and you've seen teams overcome an awful lot,” Schwartz said. “You've also seen teams be derailed by different things. So we're always pointing out things like that. I think that we've seen throughout the year, we've seen guys step up and be productive in roles. It's just that the quarterback position is such a high-profile position, right? It's the one that everybody sees. But when it comes to the players, when it comes to the coaches, when it comes to the locker room, you know, plug the next guy in and still be productive. And I think all players have that kind of mentality and things.” The Eagles went on to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII with Foles and the hope is that Thompson-Robinson can just get the Brown to the playoffs.
Cheap shot – Browns cornerback Denzel Ward did not appreciate the hit he took from Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley Sunday that led to him being checked for a concussion and resulted in a neck injury. “I kind of felt it was a little cheap shot,” Ward said. “He got me. I felt it was an unnecessary hit and probably could have been a penalty on the play, but I mean it's football, stuff happens. it's all good. I don't wish no bad on nobody. But, yeah, I got got, so it's all good.” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski included the play in his weekly tape submission to the league office seeking clarification. Stanley was not penalized on the play but could be fined. Ward wasn’t the only defender who didn’t appreciate what Stanley did. “We can't have that in this league, man,” safety Grant Delpit said. “You're doing a lot to protect offensive players with everybody, but it's a lot of, you know what I mean? So you can't have big 300 pounders come hit our corners like that and they're not looking so no, it is what it is.”
Never a doubt – Special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Bubba Ventrone didn’t blink an eye when Dustin Hopkins went out for the game-winning 40-yard field goal try after he previously missed the PAT that would’ve tied the game earlier in the quarter. “I have a lot of confidence in that unit,” Ventrone said. “I have a lot of confidence in him and I knew that he would apply the correction and be ready to rock on that last rep. So he did a great job, great execution on the play by the entire unit.” Hopkins is 24 of 27 on field goals, including 7-7 from 50-plus and 14 of 15 on PATs this season.
Back in the booth – Jim Donovan will return to the radio broadcast booth Sunday for the Browns. Donovan announced following the season opening win overt the Bengals on September 10 he would step away to receive medical treatment after a leukemia relapse. “It's great,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “You see some of those highlights after the game when they show the radio highlights on Instagram and stuff and those are always cool to see. A big game like that. You're like, oh, I wonder how that would've sounded with Jim up there. So it is great if he can get back in there and call games for us and stuff like that. We miss him, we know he is a big part of this team and it's always special when he can call game.” You can hear Donovan’s return call Sunday on 98.5 WNCX, 92.3 The Fan and the University Hospitals Cleveland Browns Radio network.
Injury report – DNP: WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion), S Juan Thornhill (calf), LB Matt Adams (personal); LIMITED: S Grant Delpit (rest/shoulder), RT Dawand Jones (knee), WR David Bell (knee), DE Ogbo Okoronkwo (groin), CB Denzel Ward (neck), TE David Njoku (rest/knee); FULL: WR Greg Newsome II (groin), RG Wyatt Teller (ankle), OG Michael Dunn (calf), RB Pierre Strong (knee), DE Alex Wright (knee)