CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 20: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars dives for yardage as he is hit by linebacker Scott Fujita #99 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
What do the Cleveland Browns need as they get ready to face the Ravens and the Steelers twice? Losing two of their starting defensive players. The Browns placed linebacker Scott Fujita and defensive end Emmanuel Stephens on the injured reserve today. Fujita broke his hand against the Bengals and will have surgery on it. Stephens injured his pectoral against the Bengals.
To be fair, you can make a case that the Browns are really only losing one starter. Stephens had taken over for Jayme Mitchell at defensive end a couple of weeks ago, a decision that Mitchell was not pleased with. Mitchell had more starts under his belt though, and if he is healthy enough to play this week, I would assume that he'll be re-inserted into the lineup.
Taking Fujita's spot in the lineup will be Kaluka Maiava. Not to undersell the loss of Fujita, but it's not as bad as long a D'Qwell Jackson or a Jabaal Sheard. Maiava filled in nicely once this season and had a strong preseason. It could be a good thing to see how he handles playing against our top AFC North rivals.
By placing two players on the injured reserved, two roster spots were opened up. The coaching staff elected to call up both replacements from the practice squad -- linebacker Benjamin Jacobs and defensive lineman Brian Sanford. Both players were on the roster bubble in the preseason, so you might be familiar with them already.