When the Browns resume practice Monday, coach Rob Chudzinski will prepare his starters to play in the preseason finale on the road Thursday night against the Chicago Bears.
“We’re going to approach this next game that those guys are going to play,” Chudzinski said today during a conference call. “And then I’ll make that determination later in the week as it goes on.”
The Browns won their first two exhibition games, and their starters outscored the St. Louis Rams and the Detroit Lions 34-3 in those matchups. However, quarterback Brandon Weeden and the rest of the starting offense failed to find a rhythm and the first-string defense was on its heels Saturday night in a 27-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the “dress rehearsal” exhibition game. The starters were outscored 17-3.
Chudzinski acknowledged the offense’s disappointing performance against the Colts could influence him to play his starters in the preseason finale, but he insisted the potential time off before the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the visiting Miami Dolphins is a more important factor to consider. If the starters sit out in Chicago, they’ll go 14 days without live game action before the opener.
“That’s a decent amount of time without playing a game,” Chudzinski said. “That’s something that weighs into it.”
But those aren’t the only factors.
“Obviously the two things that you’re weighing are putting them out there and exposing them in a preseason game to injury versus [having] a new system and wanting the guys to get more reps,” Chudzinski said. “And [we have] a lot of young guys. We’re playing a lot of young guys that just haven’t played a lot of football in the NFL. So that combination of a new system and not having a lot of experience is something that the preseason can help with. So those are the things we’ll be working through and thinking through as we get updates and those types of things on injuries. And where we’re at with all that, that will all kind of play into it.”
Chudzinski said whatever the Bears decide to do with their starters will not affect the decision he makes about whether to play his starters.
Ready to return
Chudzinski said starting right outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard (knee), wide receiver Davone Bess (tendinitis in knee), tight end Gary Barnidge (sprained AC joint in shoulder) and wide receiver Jordan Norwood (hamstring) will practice Monday after sitting out against the Colts.
Wide receiver David Nelson (bone bruise in right knee) will play Thursday against the Bears, Chudzinski said. Nelson sat out the first three exhibition games.
Other injury updates
Backup quarterback Jason Campbell was shaken up and walked to the sideline with medical personnel Saturday night after Colts linebacker Caesar Rayford strip-sacked him with 4:46 left in the fourth quarter. In his postgame news conference, Chudzinski said nothing was wrong with Campbell, and he stuck to his original report today.
“He's OK,” Chudzinski said.
Rookie free safety Jamoris Slaughter suffered a pulled groin during the game, Chudzinski said.
“We’ll hold him from practice tomorrow, and then we’ll just evaluate him on a day-to-day basis,” Chudzinski said.
The diagnosis for rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo is still a bruised lung, Chudzinski said. Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, hasn’t practiced or played since he left the game April 15 against the Lions.
“He's doing well,” Chudzinski said. “He's been riding the [stationary] bike. We have a lot of faith, and the doctors are some of the best in the world at the Cleveland Clinic. So we're following their advice on it, and we'll get him out there as soon as he's cleared.”
Will Mingo do more while rehabilitating this week?
“That's the plan as there's improvement,” Chudzinski said. “So as far as a timetable, there's no specific or definite timetable.”
Chudzinski said kicker Shayne Graham and punter Spencer Lanning are leading the races to secure jobs at their respective positions, but he wouldn't commit to them just yet.
Graham made field goals of 50 and 44 yards against the Colts while undrafted rookie kicker Brandon Bogotay sat out with a strained groin.
Lanning, the only punter on the roster after T.J. Conley was waived last week, got off to a rough start against the Colts with punts of 31 and 29 yards. He then punted for 65, 50, 60, 56 and 36 yards.
“Those guys would be the leading candidates in those areas," Chudzinski said. "I was pleased with how Spencer bounced back after those first two [punts]. And Shayne, especially hitting that 50-yarder, that was a really good hit, and it was good to see him be able to do that.”