Injuries have been hitting the Cleveland Browns hard as of late and they'll be entering Week 10 without a few key players. Left tackle Jedrick Wills was sent to the IR and is expected to miss at least six weeks. Right tackle Dawand Jones is also hurting and will miss this weekend's game.
It's not just starters that are missing time either, with a couple of depth pieces being ruled out ahead of the showdown with the Ravens. Second-year wideout David Bell is out with a knee injury while veteran Marquise Goodwin will be absent due to a concussion. They also have a couple of players listed as questionable including cornerback Greg Newsome II.
In an effort to replace their wideouts, and protect against Newsome possibly missing time, the Browns elevated Austin Watkins and cornerback A.J. Green from the practice squad to the active roster. Green, a former undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, has been called upon often, appearing in 31 games over the past three seasons. Watkins, on the other hand, has never made an appearance in a regular season game.
The cousin of Sammy Watkins, Austin was with the San Francisco 49ers in 2021 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022. He then headed to the CFL before landing in the USFL. Once there, he caught Cleveland's eye and was signed in July.
Watkins went on to put up several highlight-reel plays during the preseason. He quickly became a fan favorite after hauling in 16 receptions for 257 yards with two touchdowns. Despite the production, he was waived during the final roster cuts and then re-signed to the practice squad.
Cleveland could use someone to step up at the receiver position which means Watkins has a shot at finding his way to the field. Donovan Peoples-Jones struggled in the WR3 role alongside Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore and was eventually traded to Detroit. Goodwin and Bell have each had time on the field but neither has stood out.
Having said that, Watkins will still have to leapfrog rookie third-round pick Cedric Tillman. The Tennessee product has had issues with a hip injury but appears to be fully healthy now. Still, he has just two receptions for eight yards on the year.
There's also James Proche, who was recently signed after spending three years in Baltimore. Proche was brought in to replace Peoples-Jones and even happened to take his number. He's also primarily a return man for Cleveland so there's no guarantee he will see snaps in the base offense, again, giving Watkins a shot at making an impression.