Neither defensive end Billy Winn (quad strain) nor outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard (sprained knee) were out on the practice field on Thursday and both look increasingly unlikely to play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Also not participating but on the practice field were kicker Billy Cundiff (strained quad) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (sprained thumb) who were working on the side with trainers. Hopefully, Cundiff can figure out a way to be to kick on Sunday or the Browns are looking at cutting someone to bring in yet another kicker or rolling with Spencer Lanning in that capacity.
Not having Winn and Sheard would definitely hurt the Browns, but they do have legitimate depth so they will not be hurt too much on the front end. Athyba Rubin has said he felt no setbacks from the game against the Vikings and should be even more comfortable this week. Meanwhile, Barkevious Mingo would get the first start of his young career if Sheard cannot go. The team believes Mingo will be fine in the event he needs to start and last week’s game suggests he will be a better run defender than many believed. This is not terribly surprising for people who liked Mingo coming out of college where he was a better run defender than people realized, playing power end in the SEC against opponents with 70-100lbs on him and holding his own.
The depth is where the Browns will feel the pinch if they are without Winn or Sheard. With Quentin Groves still recovering from a high ankle sprain, the next man up is either Eric Martin or Paul Hazel. The defensive line might see the first regular season snaps from Armonty Bryant, who has been inactive the first three games. Bryant and Rubin could not be more different as Bryant is a sleek, quick twitch player while Rubin is a bigger, stronger, plugger. This could work to the Browns advantage in obvious passing situations as they can go with a smaller, quicker lineup with Bryant in the game to rush the passer while Rubin plays as many run downs as he can.
The good news is that Shawn Lauvao continues to look like he is ready to play Sunday and the Browns desperately need him against a terrific Bengals defensive line. The depth in the front seven has become extremely important and something Ray Horton has been happy to have and always preaches. As much as it hurts the Browns not to have a legitimate impact player in Sheard, Mingo has a ton of talent and seems to get better by the play. Bryant likely gets a big opportunity to showcase why he is worth keeping.