BEREA—Arguably, Joe Haden is the Browns best player on defense. He suffered a sprained knee against the Titans on Oct. 2 and was listed as doubtful on Thursday.
If he can’t go, Dimitri Patterson and rookie Buster Skrine will have to step up and fill a key role. Patterson will most likely start and Skrine will move into the third spot.
“It will all be all hands on deck,” Pat Shurmur said. “If for some reason you don’t have a starter then the next guys move up and then the guys behind have to fill in on different packages. There’s a possibility, but yeah, Buster would be third.”
Shurmur said that Haden will not practice Thursday and if he doesn’t practice Friday, it doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t play on Sunday.
“Each guy is different,” Shurmur said. “There’s a chance (Haden) could play if he doesn’t practice.”
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said it would be a big loss if Haden can’t go.
“It would be a big blow, obviously,” Jauron said. “He’s been playing very well for us, but it’s a rough game.
“We’ll have to see with Joe and go from there.”
Patterson has six tackles and three passes broken up thus far and Jauron is confident in him.
“Dimitri has done an outstanding job and he’s a very competitive guy,” Jauron said. “You never have enough of those guys.”
Patterson had played inside and outside and Jauron said there is a difference.
“It’s a very different game inside with all that space to cover, than playing on the outside,” Jauron said. “It’s not easy.”
Skrine leads the team in special teams tackles with six, but would get more extensive time on the field if Haden doesn’t play. He has yet to make a tackle on defense.
“(Skrine’s) a guy who has played already,” Shurmur said. “He’s been our fourth corner and would then be our third corner.”
Skrine was taken in the fifth-round of UT-Chattanooga and is known for his blazing speed. Shurmur said he’s not worried about him.
“We have a lot of young guys who are contributing and making progress,” Shurmur said. “He’s a guy that we liked and he has come in and done everything that we have asked him to do. He has been what we thought of him when we drafted him.”
Skrine is eager to play on defense.
“It’s definitely an opportunity for me to get in the rotation in a regular season game,” Skrine said. “I want to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Jauron is confident in Skrine, as well.
“Buster will be excited to play,” Jauron said. “If it goes that way, it will be a big learning experience for him and I’m sure he’ll do well.
“I am happy with his development.”
The Raiders have speedy receivers with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford, who like to go deep.
“They can stretch the field,” Jauron said. “They will take shots.”
Skrine said the corners will have to pay attention to their techniques.
“They’re all fast receivers and we have to work on our technique,” Skrine said. “We’re taking everything coach has taught us and take it to the field.”
Next Man Up: With DL Marcus Benard lost for the season, DL Auston English is expected to step into his role.
“I am just excited to have the opportunity to be activated,” English said. “Whenever my number is called, hopefully, I will be able to step in the roll and do the best I can.”
English had a big preseason with four sacks that earned him a spot on the final roster, only to be replaced and landing on the practice squad.
“It lets you know that you can play at this level,” he said. “Obviously, you can never count on having huge stats. You just try to do your best, work to your strengths, do what you can do, play within yourself and hopefully, it becomes successful.”
Shurmur thinks English will play this week.
“He’ll end up playing,” Shurmur said. “He’ll play special teams and he’ll play defensive end as well.
“I think you’ll see him immediately on special teams,” he said. “He’s a big athlete, a guy that can run and he’s been a guy that’s showed up on the practice field in special teams situations and then we’ll try and get him in there and get him some snaps.
“He had production in the preseason, which speaks well for him,” he said. “Again, it’s like replacing any player that gets injured, you put the next one in and let’s roll.”
Jauron is counting on English to step in.
“I believe he can be productive,” Jauron said. “It’s easy to like him. He applies himself every day in every area. I am very comfortable with him.”
Jauron said Benard was just getting acclimated into the system.
“It’s a big disappointment for the young man and for us,” Jauron said. “He was just getting back from injuries and other things.”
Balance Out: QB Colt McCoy said the offense needs to get better at balancing its attack.
“We need t work on that,” he said. “I think we mentioned before the break that the last game we played was not a good indication of that. I do think one of the things that we really talked about was how to get the run game more involved, more effective. I just think we need to be a lot more consistent in the run game and I think through that it all will allow our offense to be a little more consistent.”
Shurmur said some of the players that are going to be given more playing time need to step up.
“I hope the guys that are getting more of a shot have the attitude of go out and make it happen.”
Injury Update: DB Joe Haden (knee) and OL Alex Mack (illness) started the week listed as doubtful as neither participated in practice Wednesday or Thursday. LB Titus Brown (ankle), WR Josh Cribbs (knee) and OL Tony Pashos (ankle) were limited and listed as questionable. DB Eric Hagg (knee) was a full participant in practice and is probable.
Shurmur still wouldn’t rule out Mack or Haden.
“It’s still too early to speculate,” he said. “It’s always good to practice, but each guy is different. There is a chance that they could play if they don’t practice (Friday).”
Shurmur said it would be a blow to the line if Mack cannot play, but he’s comfortable with OL Steve Vallos.
“When you lose your center, he kind of directs things,” Shurmur said. “If Alex can’t go, it will help with Steve there. He’s played a lot.”
Young Guards: Shurmur was asked how OL Shawn Lauvao and rookie OL Todd Pinkston were doing.
“The young guards have had shown steady improvement,” he said. “For a rookie, Pinkston has improved.
“Lauvao had his best game last week,” he said. “I feel good about where they’re going and I think they’ll tell you they are looking for improvement, as well.”
Fan of Peyton: Raiders’ coach Hue Jackson is a big fan of RB Peyton Hillis.
“I know this guy is a sensational runner,” Jackson said. “He’s one of the better big backs in this league. One hit doesn’t bring this guy down. You have to gang tackle him. One guy can’t bring him down.”
Pryor Back: Former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor started practicing with the Raiders after serving a five-game suspension.
“My number one thing is getting (Pryor) back practicing with the team,” Jackson said. “He’s a talented young man and don’t know where he is as I haven’t had a chance to have him on the field.”
Reunion: Browns RB Peyton Hillis and Raiders RB Darren McFadden played together in the backfield at Arkansas. Hillis was more of the blocking back for McFadden.
“It will be good to see him,” Hillis said. “We’re both of the same mindset as players.”
Hillis said McFadden is a rare talent.
“He has a lot you can’t teach,” he said. “He’s a great player.”
Hillis thinks it’s exciting the trio of McFadden, Felix Jones and himself are all featured backs in the NFL.
“We knew then we were all talented,” he said. “We’re all thankful where we’re at.”
Emotional Game: With the passing of Raiders’ patriarch Al Davis, the Browns are expecting a charged up team and fan base. This will be the first home game since Davis died and the Raiders are planning tributes throughout the game.
“I’ve made the team aware and in our two team meetings,” Shurmur said. “The players are well aware of what the organization is going through. You make them aware of it and once the game starts, you try to get it out of your system.”
Raiders’ coach Hue Jackson said the tributes of Davis won’t affect his team.
“This football team has to get ready to play,” Jackson said in a conference call. “We respect (Davis’ passing), and will miss him, but we have to get ready to play football.”
He said the team will not have a letdown after a big win over the Texans that came down to the final play.
“Letdown? I’m not worried about a letdown,” he said. “This is a humbling game and if you’re not ready to play, you can get humbled pretty quickly.”