The Cleveland Browns should see the return of one of their defensive playmakers on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but may be without another one.
Cornerback Denzel Ward was back at practice this week after missing the past two games while being in the league-mandated concussion protocol.
But the defensive secondary could be missing another key piece as safety Jabrill Peppers is among six players listed as questionable for the game, according to the team website. Peppers has been dealing with an unspecified neck injury, that kept him out of practice for a couple of days and limited his availability on Friday.
In addition to Peppers, offensive lineman Austin Corbett, center JC Tretter, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, linebacker Tanner Vallejo and defensive back Phillip Gaines are all listed as questionable for the game.
If Peppers can’t go, or is limited, that will be a blow for the Browns as he has been playing at a strong level all season and currently sits as one of the league’s five best safeties, according to Pro Football Focus:
The highest graded safeties in the NFL so far this season. pic.twitter.com/xlCrAUoDBx— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 20, 2018
Sunday’s rematch with the Bengals should be a feisty one as the Browns go for a season sweep against Cincinnati as well as their fifth home win of the season. The game also marks the first return to town for former head coach Hue Jackson.
Prior to the team’s first meeting, when Cleveland rolled to a 35-20 win, the Browns were fired up over the disrespect the Bengals were showing them and Peppers expects more of the same on Sunday, according to cleveland.com:
“That’s why I think we’re going to come out here with the same type of tenacity. Because stuff like that, that sticks with you. Like these guys really, really don’t respect us as an organization and as players. So that makes you want to go out there with that extra oomph.”
Even with a handful of players listed as questionable, the Browns are in better shape than the Bengals. In addition to quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green not being able to play on Sunday, the Bengals have ruled out wide receiver Tyler Boyd (76 receptions, 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns), who is dealing with a knee injury.