In preseason, Browns outside linebacker Antwan Peek looked like the perfect sidekick for Kamerion Wimbley. But a strained foot suffered in the opener has hampered Peek and the Cleveland pass rush. It's a big reason the Browns have just six sacks, ranking 30th in the league going into Sunday's game at St. Louis.
Peek came to Cleveland in free agency from Houston, where defensive coordinator Todd Grantham worked from 2002-04. A standout at the University of Cincinnati (especially in a 2002 game against Ohio State), Peek had 10 sacks in four seasons for the Texans. The Browns needed a player to take some of the focus off Wimbley, the first-round pick from Florida State in 2006 who set a franchise rookie record with 11 sacks.
But when Peek was hurt, opponents started double-teaming Wimbley, who has been held to three sacks. (Peek has 1 1/2.)
Now with Peek rested and his foot much improved after a bye week, Grantham thinks the Browns will see the Peek who was all over the field in preseason.
''When you have a foot strain your get-off is going to be a little off,'' Peek said. ''Now that it's gotten a lot better, I'm not conscious of that when I take off.
''It was real frustrating. Now that I'm healthier I'm looking forward to getting out there. I've got some catching up to do.''
Peek sounded like he never considered missing a game, even though it might have helped him heal faster.
''I'm not one of those guys who want to make excuses,'' he said. ''I tried to work some of the pain out. Sometimes if you sit around and do nothing, it stiffens up a little more. It's gotten better, so I guess working on it helped out a little bit.''
The Browns' defense ranks last in the league this week, but Peek believes that will change soon.
''We have a good young defense and we're going to continue to get better. We have to eliminate the mental mistakes,'' he said.
The beleaguered Rams, plagued by injuries on the offensive line, could help their cause.
''Whenever you see a team that's given up (24) sacks you start licking your chops,'' Peek said. ''This is a good opportunity for us as pass rushers.''