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Genard Avery’s absence against the Titans was puzzling

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Head coach Freddie Kitchens says it was just a numbers game, but something seems off regarding the second-year pass rusher.

NFL: JUL 26 Browns Training Camp Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cleveland Browns linebacker/defensive end Genard Avery looked to be a strong candidate for an increased role in 2019.

One of general manager John Dorsey’s “finds” in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Avery entered training camp as the third member, along with defensive ends Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon, of a pass-rushing group that was planning to be the nightmare of opposing quarterbacks.

Sure, Avery was slowed during the preseason with a hamstring injury, but he did not appear on the injury report leading up to the season opener against the Tennessee Titans. So it came as a surprise when Avery was a healthy scratch on Sunday.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens was asked on Tuesday about the decision to sideline Avery and Kitchens said it was just about the numbers, according to clevelandbrowns.com:

“You can carry only 46, and I do not know where you want to take it from right now. It was a coach’s decision. Short answer, yes.”

Kitchens is right, of course, that the NFL only allows teams to have 46 active players on game day, meaning that someone has to be on the inactive list.

But not seeing Avery on the field is a bit tougher to take after the entire second unit on the defensive line posted a Blutarski against the Titans:

  • Devaroe Lawrence: No stats registered
  • Daniel Ekuale: No stats registered.
  • Chris Smith: No stats registered
  • Chad Thomas: No stats registered.

Avery may “only” be a pass rusher, but given the way he played as a rookie it seems likely that he could have figured out someway to get his name on the stat sheet against the Titans.

It is a new week, however, so surely the Browns are ready to see what Avery can do, especially after seeing the other options in action. But as of today Avery is still listed third on the unofficial depth chart and Kitchens is not ready to make a decision on Avery’s status, according to the team’s website:

“The activations for the game had not been made yet either. There are a lot of factors with that. You have to start factoring in offense and defense when you start activating people because of people being banged up in certain areas or whatever, but we will deal with that towards the latter part of the week and see how they are.”

Avery is not big on specials team play, which doesn’t help his cause, but it is hard to believe he could not have offered something against the Titans.

We’ll all know soon enough whether or not the coaching staff sees things the same way.