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Browns Battle Injuries Ahead Of Texans’ Visit

Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski wasted little time Wednesday announcing standout receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) would be unavailable for the Browns’ home opener on Sunday.

While Beckham, a three-time Pro Bowler who played seven games in 2020 before undergoing season-ending surgery, earns the headlines even when he is unable to play, the Browns (0-1) have greater issues as they prepare to host the Houston Texans (1-0) at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Browns were without three offensive tackles as they began preparations for the Texans: starters Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) and Jack Conklin (knee), and swing tackle Chris Hubbard (triceps). While all three are listed as day-to-day, none of them practiced Wednesday and Stefanski was a bit vague in addressing how the Browns would move forward this week.

“We’ve got some plans,” Stefanski said. “We’ll make it work. But that’s certainly something we’re up on the whiteboard figuring out, who’s going to be where. We’ll be just fine for practice.

“With all those guys, with each one, we’re just trying to be smart. Part of it is they’re veterans and we want to make sure we have them for the long haul.”

Meanwhile, the Browns managed to move the ball without Beckham in their season-opening 33-29 loss to the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs. They amassed 457 total yards, including 304 through the air.

Still, Beckham is as unique as any offensive weapon in the league, and by most indications, he appears close to returning to the lineup and bolstering the Browns’ aerial attack.

But similar to the linemen, Stefanski is opting to err on the side of caution at this early stage.

“I just felt like that was the right thing to do,” Stefanski said of keeping Beckham on the inactive list. “Last week, I thought we had a good plan. He was close, working very hard on the side, but just felt like it made more sense to have clarity early in the week from a game-planning, practice standpoint.”

The Texans seem primed to welcome back two potentially key contributors on offense who missed their rousing 37-21 home victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday.

Right tackle Charlie Heck and slot receiver Anthony Miller were full participants on Wednesday, and Texans coach David Culley announced that Heck is expected to play against the Browns. Culley is taking a more judicious approach with Miller, who is trending in the right direction.

Like the Browns, the Texans excelled in the passing game despite being short-handed. Tyrod Taylor passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns in the win and held up behind an offensive line still coming together as a cohesive unit.

Some of the critiques Culley had of his offense were derived from that still-developing relationship between the quarterback and his protection.

“I thought the pass protection was good,” Culley said. “I thought the couple of times that Tyrod came out of the pocket when he didn’t really need to come out of the pocket, it looked like he had pressure when he didn’t really have pressure. He should have just stepped up in the pocket and made a couple of throws where he came out and ended up getting some positive yardage for that. But I think overall the pass protection was good for the most part in that game.”

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