Browns Not Ruling Starting Defensive Ends In Or Out For Atlanta Game

Rookie Alex Wright (No. 94) could make his second consecutive start at left defensive end in place of Jadeveon Clowney. He could be joined by fellow rookie Isaiah Thomas on the right side in place of Myles Garrett. (Cleveland Browns)

Rookie Alex Wright (No. 94) could make his second consecutive start at left defensive end in place of Jadeveon Clowney. He could be joined by fellow rookie Isaiah Thomas on the right side in place of Myles Garrett. (Cleveland Browns)

Browns not ruling starting defensive ends in or out for Atlanta game

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.

Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …

The uncertain game status of starting defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney will bleed into Friday and possibly into the weekend.

While Garrett did return to the team on Thursday after a day off to rest following injuries suffered in a one-car accident on Monday, neither he nor Clowney practiced. Clowney missed the Steelers game with an ankle injury.

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods called Garrett’s situation “a day-to-day thing … there’s a chance [he could play Sunday], but it will be based on medical staff.” There has been no substantial update on Clowney all week.

Waiting in the wings are rookie defensive ends Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas, with practice squadders Isaac Rochell and Curtis Weaver standing by as backups.

Defensive tackle Taven Bryan (hamstring) also missed his second day of practice. That poses the possibility of Perrion Winfrey filling in for Bryan, which could mean three rookie starters on the D-lione.

Cornerback Denzel Ward (ribs, back) and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah did return to the field for individual drills only.

Woods feigns concern about being short-handed for the Falcons’ multi-faceted offense.

“I really believe it’s not that guys have to step up and do anything special,” Woods said. “Just go out and do your job. Whoever’s up, whoever’s healthy, just go out and play and do your job.

“I don’t believe there are backups in the NFL. I believe there are starters-in-waiting.”

York’s take on PATs

Through three weeks, there have been 10 missed PATs by eight NFL kickers, including the great Justin Tucker of the Ravens. Cade York and Cairo Santos of the Bears each have two PAT misses.

York missed wide right against the Jets and then missed against the Steelers when he banged the right upright. He won’t blame the 21 mph winds for the latter one because he said he handled the winds fine in pre-game warm-ups.

York did make two PATs and a field goal of 34 yards amid the gusty conditions, and he considered both the miss and his first game in unpredictable, high winds in FirstEnergy Stadium to be learning experiences.

“It’s a good experience, for sure,” York said. “It’s the worst [wind] I’ve been in [this year]. I think I can see I’ll definitely be able to handle it. I had one of the better warm-ups I’ve had. I just have to stay mentally locked in during the game.”

York believes staying locked in is the key to making the routine PATs from 33 yards.

“In college, our [PATs] were 21 yards. Adding 12 yards, the ball can move a lot,” he said.

“Everyone on the outside just assumes that PATs are automatic. It’s not. You need to be locked in and be more aggressive. The 58- [yard game-winning field goal in Game 1] I had against Carolina, that’s a game-winning situation and I’ve never been more locked in than that in my life … [I had] tunnel vision, and everything. I feel like on PATs, sometimes it opens up and I need to make sure it’s locked back in.”

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer echoed the sentiments of coach Kevin Stefanski when he said Thursday, “He’ll be fine.”

The big picture

The defense and special teams have been sources of concern and criticism over the first three games, but the coordinators of those units believe progress is being made each week.

Woods sees it in the third quarter of the Jets and Steelers games.

“Against the Jets, I think we played well coming out of halftime and really the whole way until the last two minutes of the game. I think we gave up three points,” he said. “I think it was really the same thing against Pittsburgh. I think we are doing a good job of handling adjustments those last two games.

“The first game with Carolina, just making some mistakes in terms of execution and me in terms of putting certain defensive packages on the field and not getting the call out quick enough. It is all those things you learn from. In those critical situations, you just want to make sure that you are calling something that the guys are confident in and they can play fast and execute.”

Priefer cited some positive plays of his units in the second half against Pittsburgh, including a stop inside the 20 on the second-half kickoff, and three clutch punts by Corey Bojorquez in the last 3:45 of the game to the 6-, 20- and 4-yard lines.

Priefer was not sweating the Steelers’ onside kick like everyone else because he saw the flag thrown after George Pickens jumped offsides. But the Steelers’ changing direction of the kick from the left to the right did cause confusion on the Browns’ hands team.

“I just think we need to do a better job of making that play. I have to get them more ready,” Priefer said.

Brownie bits

If there is one image to depict the Browns’ young season, it might be Joel Bitonio pulling to his right and throwing a lead block downfield for Nick Chubb. That’s as good as it gets for a left guard. “I always love it because I think it puts us at an advantage scheme-wise,” Bitonio said. To oldtimers, the play rekindles the image of Gene Hickerson, the greatest Browns pulling guard, pulling for Jim Brown. “It is pretty to watch. It is a lot of fun,” said offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt …

Jacoby Brissett ranks ninth among NFL quarterbacks with a completion percentage of 66.3. That’s 5.7 points higher than his career mark of 60.6. “[It’s] scheme, players, play calls – it is a little bit of everything,” Van Pelt said of the improvement. “I just feel really good about where he is right now in our system. His understanding of what is required from the quarterback position, he is playing at a high level.” 

Receiver Amari Cooper isn't exactly envious of Atlanta's Cordarrelle Patterson being converted to full-time running back from wide receiver. But Cooper did admit his football career began as a running back. "I used to play running in my after-school program. But once I got into organized football, the coach’s son played running back," Cooper said.