While the Bengals are the primary opponent, the Browns also find themselves still dealing with COVID-19 as the club placed defensive tackle Malik Jackson on the Reserve/COVID list on Thursday.
We have placed DT Malik Jackson on the reserve/COVID-19 list.— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 6, 2022
That move likely ends Jackson’s season, and possibly his time in Cleveland, as he was playing on a one-year contract.
While Jackson, who is in his 10th season in the NFL, provided a veteran presence to an extremely young defensive tackle group that remained a weakness throughout the season. Jackson’s leadership was likely beneficial during the week, but the results on game day were not as positive.
Jackson finishes the year with 25 tackles, including two tackles for loss, and a half-sack. After playing more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps in five of Cleveland’s first six games, he saw his playing time decrease to an average of just 54 percent of the defensive plays over the next 10 games.
The Browns are clearly in need of help at defensive tackle in the offseason, and it would appear unlikely that Jackson will be in the team’s plans for the 2022 season.
In addition to Jackson, the Browns also placed kicker Chris Blewitt on the Reserve/COVID-19 squad, and signed running back Benny LeMay and offensive tackle Alex Taylor to the practice squad on Thursday.
The 5-foot-8 and 220-pound LeMay was originally signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Charlotte in 2020. He had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019, and finished his collegiate career with 3,232 rushing yards, 22 rushing touchdowns and averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Taylor has spent the season bouncing between the game-day roster, where he was active for three games, the practice squad and being released and then re-signed by the Browns.
Given the performance of rookie James Hudson III at right tackle this past week, it will be interesting if the Browns consider giving Taylor a look in what will be a mostly meaningless game on Sunday.