By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Undrafted rookie inside linebacker Darius Eubanks wasn’t with the Browns (4-7) during training camp, but injuries will force him into the starting lineup Sunday against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9).
With starting inside linebacker Craig Robertson (sprained right knee) listed as doubtful for Sunday and primary backup Tank Carder (sprained shoulder) out, Eubanks will be thrust into the action like he was once Carder was sidelined during the first half this past weekend in a 27-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Eubanks hadn’t played a defensive snap in the NFL until then.
“I didn’t expect it to come this fast, but I’ve just got to make the most of this opportunity that’s presented to me,” said Eubanks, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings May 3 out of Georgia Southern University. “I’ve just got to prepare myself and be ready to go.
“I’m very excited. I’m looking forward it. This is something you dream about when you first start playing football.”
After the Vikings waived Eubanks Aug. 31, the Browns signed him to their practice squad Sept. 2 and promoted him to their active roster Oct. 26. He has been hounding Robertson and Carder as he tries to catch up.
“I ask them questions constantly,” Eubanks said. “I tell them every day, ‘OK, this is the last question.’ They’ll be like, ‘No, just ask as many questions as you want.’ I feel like sometimes I ask them too many questions, but they’re great guys and they say whatever I need just ask them, and they’ll take care of me.”
Coach Rob Chudzinski and defensive coordinator Ray Horton said Eubanks played well in relief of Carder. The experience gave the 6-foot-2, 222-pound Eubanks confidence he can fill in admirably.
“This is what I’ve been studying and practicing and working hard for, so I’m not going to say, ‘I don’t feel like I can handle my job,’” Eubanks said. “The coaching staff has got enough faith in me. I should have enough faith in myself to be able to hold me own.”
Running back Chris Ogbonnaya has fumbled in each of the past two games. The Cincinnati Bengals returned one for a touchdown, and the Steelers drove for a field goal after the other.
“It’s not easy to brush off,” Ogbonnaya said. “You’re cognizant of things, but you also understand you don’t want something that affected you last week to affect you the next game.
“I don’t like it. I take a lot of pride in what I do. If I had a play that affected the team, I’m going to be upset about it. At the same time, I understand … we’re going to have those types of plays, and we have to be professionals.”
The Browns have asked Ogbonnaya to play fullback, tailback and special teams. Maybe if the team didn’t spread him so thin, he would perform better as a runner.
“No, that’s the role they gave me. That’s the role I’ve chosen to take,” Ogbonnaya said. “It’s actually a compliment to me. The more you can do, the better for you as a player and the longer you can play. It’s a position I take a lot of pride in being able to do a lot of different things, whether it’s special teams, fullback, running back or motioning out to receiver.”
After the loss to the Steelers, strong safety T.J. Ward said the defense needed to tally takeaways, though he pinned the bulk of the blame on the offense by emphasizing its four turnovers.
Horton made it clear he does not approve of his players throwing the offense under the bus.
“These guys are paid professionals and they all have their opinions, but I’m more of a man-in-the-mirror type guy, make sure my house is clean before I say something about somebody else,” Horton said. “I know T.J. is having, in some people’s eyes, a good year, but until you can play that kind of perfect All-Star, All-Pro year, just take care of your own self because it is hard enough in this league for me, I know, to call a game, let alone say how good I am.
“I think that’s obviously for the press and your players to talk about. From a player’s standpoint, I think you know when you win, deflect credit to your teammates, and when you lose, probably take a little bit of responsibility on yourself. I think those are the classy kinds of comments.”
Horton said, overall, he’s pleased with the defense, which is ranked fourth in the NFL (306.1 yards allowed per game.)
“Everything that we want to do statistically is there,” he said. “Would we like more wins? Yes.”
Ward always looks forward to facing his cousin, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
“It’s always going to be a chippy game between us,” Ward said. “It’s a blessing for us especially to be on the same field. It’s definitely going to be a fun experience. You can expect there to be a lot of talking between us, but it’s all in love and all in competition.”
The Browns’ playoff hopes essentially went down the tubes this past Sunday with their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, so how do the players stay determined and focused in the final five games?
“You’re in a business to play professional ball every Sunday and your job is to win,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “Staying motivated is providing for your family and taking care of business. The playoff picture is big, it’s super big, but at end of the day, whatever you do on tape is your resume. If you don’t play for the Browns, the other 31 teams want to see what you are able to do.
“If you’re not motivated to play because you have nothing to play for, the playoffs, then you don’t deserve to be in the locker room, you don’t deserve to be in the league. You can’t go out there and play weak because you’re out of the picture. What is that going to do for the next people who come in? ‘You guys look unmotivated.’ I don’t have time for that here.”
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas agreed with Haden’s logic.
“When I look back in years past and we’re sitting there at the end of the season and we’re in the playoff hunt anymore, it almost is more of a motivation for the guys in the locker room because you’re playing for your job,” Thomas said. “You know when you’re winning, the tendency of the general manager and the person picking the players is to keep the guys together because that’s the formula that’s working. But if you’re losing, they’re thinking, ‘Who are the guys we need to replace?’ So that’s got to be the mindset anytime you get into a situation where maybe the playoff picture is not in your favor. That motivation level has got to go up individually because you know everybody in [the front office] is looking at who’s the guy that needs to get replaced to get you into the playoffs.”
With Jason Campbell (concussion) ruled out for Sunday and Brandon Weeden set to start, Alex Tanney will serve as the No. 2 quarterback after the Browns signed him this week off the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad. “We’ll have a package of plays for him if he needs to play, and I’m confident that he’ll be able to go in and execute those plays,” Chudzinski said. … Although Campbell aggravated his bruised ribs this past weekend, he does not have broken ribs, Chudzinski said. … Offensive coordinator Norv Turner did not appreciate Browns fans booing Weeden when he entered the game Sunday after Campbell hurt his ribs and later suffered a concussion. “That’s not appropriate, and I think it’s hard on him,” Turner said. “I’m very impressed the way he handles it.” … The Browns listed offensive tackle Martin Wallace (illness), defensive end Armonty Bryant (back) and tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) as questionable. … The Browns re-signed center Patrick Lewis to the practice squad and released wide receiver Reggie Dunn from the practice squad.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.