CLEVELAND, Ohio – Browns second-round pick Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was on track to start with a weak linebacker in Kansas City when he suffered a weightlifting accident on Tuesday that left him with stitches at the front.
The minor accident cost him the whole week of practice and Sunday night’s game in Atlanta because he couldn’t put on a helmet for fear of reopening the gash. The rest of his body and mind are willing and able, but the cup put another little pinch in his attempt to win the starting position.
As it stands, Owusu-Koramoah missed the first five full days of training camp while in the COVID-19 reserve without any symptoms, and had to catch up on his return. But he exceeded expectations and stole the show in the preseason opener in Jacksonville, registering eight tackles – three for a loss – and a sack. He nearly blocked a punt and covered a receiver tightly from the lunge.
The performance indicated he might be ready to start on September 12 against Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. In front of him on the depths board is 2019 fifth-round pick Mack Wilson, Grade 11 pro Malcolm Smith, former Super Bowl MVP. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods seems to favor experience – especially against the Super Bowl runner-up – but Owusu-Koramoah’s great playing ability could prevail despite setbacks.
The hybrid linebacker is so athletic that a rookie error will be followed by two dynamic plays. The team’s best blitzer, he has exceptional closing speed, instincts and versatility too crazy not to throw him against the Chiefs.
Plus, the Browns were ready to write it up in the first round, and first-round picks usually start right away. If he hadn’t missed nine practices at training camp and the pre-season final, starting the opener would have been a no-brainer. If he can put the helmet on at the start of the week, he’ll have plenty of time to prove to Woods and linebacker coach Jason Tarver he’s ready to get off the jump.
He also stays in great shape during this break, and mentally on top. If Woods feels more comfortable starting one of the other two, Owusu-Koramoah will come off the bench to provide a spark, and it will be difficult for them to take him out.
Here are some more Insider elements as the Browns prepare to face the Falcons on Sunday night:
Greg Newsome II clinched the starting cornerback position against Denzel Ward
Newsome, the Browns’ No.26 pick, landed the starting cornerback position against Denzel Ward as Greedy Williams strained his groin last Sunday against the Giants.
Newsome was already slightly ahead of Williams, and now there’s no way Williams can catch up with him. After a shoulder injury that cost him the whole of last season, Newsome has made great strides in this camp and will play an important role from the start. But he missed out all last week and will be away Sunday night. He could be back by the opener, but that’s uncertain at this point.
It’s time for the Browns to settle down with Newsome and prepare him for one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. He will follow in Ward’s footsteps, who also started straight away as a rookie. Ward was ahead of Newsome at this point, but the Northwestern product is learning quickly. He studies quickly, takes training well and constantly picks the brains of veteran defensive backs. What he lacks in experience – he only started 20 games in college – he makes up for with his intelligence, speed and athletic ability.
The Ward-Newsome era begins September 12.
Odell Beckham Jr. set to rest in Atlanta
Beckham made some 11-on-11s for the first time on Thursday, but likely won’t play in Atlanta. Not only did he not progress enough for the live action, but he said he didn’t want to play any more preseason games in his career after suffering a serious ankle injury at Cleveland in 2017 in as a member of the Giants. But Beckham looks amazing in the limited reps he’s had and in the one-on-one work with Baker Mayfield on the side. It looks like he could start against the Chiefs tomorrow, but the Browns will continue to gradually increase his workload. If he’s playing Kansas City, which seems very likely given his progress, he’ll likely be on a pitching count or at least watched very closely.
Mayfield and Select Starters to play two series in Atlanta
Mayfield and some other starters will likely only play two series against the Falcons. The idea is to have some live action before the opening and get them out safely. Kevin Stefanski will likely protect Mayfield with his starting offensive line – minus JC Tretter who has been inactive for most of the week – and give him enough weapons to try and score touchdowns. Jarvis Landry has also been a bit limited in camp just for the veterans’ rest, so he could join Beckham on the sidelines. And after seeing the Ravens run JK Dobbins get pulled off Saturday with a knee injury during the Ravens’ opening practice, the Browns would be crazy to play Nick Chubb in Atlanta. He trained sparingly at camp and could rest tonight.
On the defensive side, some of the top veterans will likely be out, including Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, who only recently returned to team drills after several weeks off. Garrett was treating a hamstring and Clowney suffered from an undisclosed minor illness. The two ran sideways sprints on Friday and looked perfectly fine.
Anthony Schwartz on track to be able to help early
The Browns would love their third-round receiver to be on the field in Kansas City and other early games to use his 4.26 speed, and that seems more and more likely now that he’s returned to drills. team Thursday week after his hamstring injury. Schwartz had two great days of practice to close out the week, including a Friday session in which he caught several touchdown passes. One was a battle for the ball which initially looked like a snap from Emmanuel Rugamba, but Schwartz sort of emerged waving the ball. If he continues like this, the Browns will create a set of games for him for Game 1, and Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will need to gear up for speed. His hands have also improved dramatically since day one of rookie camp.
Takk McKinley gets off to a good start but will likely rest against the Falcons
McKinley has had a good first week of training after missing three weeks with a personal problem, and is in a good position. He stayed in shape during his absence and looked explosive off the ball. In an agility exercise that involves running in an eight and picking up tennis balls along the way, he was praised for his speed. McKinley offers a change of pace from Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, and will be disruptive as a situational rusher. At this point it may still be the # 3 end of KC
As for facing his former team on Sunday night, he’s probably not ready. McKinley is still preparing for team drills and will need every moment of the next two weeks to get ready in Kansas City.
The battle for DE # 4
Behind McKinley, the battle for fourth place is one of the fiercest in the camp. It includes Porter Gustin, Curtis Weaver, Cameron Malveux, and Joe Jackson. Jackson received praise last week on the Joe Thomas show, who said Jackson is becoming one of his favorite players. The Falcons’ game could help determine which of these players deserves the job. The Browns still love Weaver, who they claimed by waiver last summer from the Dolphins and placed on IR after season-ending foot surgery. But Weaver has a lot of competition for the role and has to stand out on Sunday night.
Malik McDowell stands out in crowded defensive tackle room
The Browns have some tough defensive tackle decisions to make, too, but Malik McDowell is practically a lock to make the 53. The Seahawks’ second-round pick in 2017 who did not play in the NFL due to legal issues et al., has improved steadily throughout the camp and deserves a longer review. Veteran linemen like Malik Jackson have mentored him and he’s made great strides. A mountain man at 6-6, 295, he’s playing faster every day and the rust is peeling off. McDowell stands out in an intriguing but above all inexperienced backup room. The others are Jordan Elliott, Tommy Togiai, Sheldon Day and Marvin Wilson. With so much good competition in the hall, Wilson will need a big Falcons game to present a solid record.
KhaDarel Hodge enters bubble match
Hodge is one of the most recognizable names in the Browns roster bubble heading into Sunday night’s game. The Browns could count sixth-round receiver / running back Demetric Felton as their sixth receiver, which would eliminate a spot for a player like Hodge, who competes with JoJo Natson and Ja’Marcus Bradley. If the Browns don’t keep him, they might try to trade him. He’s also under contract for $ 2.133million this season, so they can save some space if he’s not on the squad.
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