The Cleveland Browns are headed to the NFL postseason for the third time since The Return. Given the number of injury articles we have had to write, like this one, about this team this year, it is downright amazing that the above statement is a fact.
That the Browns clinched a playoff spot a week early is even more impressive. Unfortunately, we must return to the realities that has been Cleveland’s season of injuries.
HC Kevin Stefanski met with the media today and discussed the team’s plans moving forward being dependent on the results of the Baltimore Ravens game with the Miami Dolphins. If the Dolphins win, everything is still on the table for the Browns. If the Ravens win, Cleveland is slotted as the fifth seed going into Week 18.
Stefanski gave a concerning update on WR Elijah Moore who left Week 17’s win with a head injury:
Stefanski says Elijah Moore is home now but spent night in the hospital due to his concussion. Mike Ford has a calf injury, prognosis TBD.— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) December 29, 2023
An overnight stay in the hospital brings concern for Moore’s health first and foremost. It also indicates that his concussion could limit his availability over the next few weeks.
Ford is an important part of the team’s special teams unit and, at times, has been forced into duty at cornerback this season.
Stefanski’s update on WR Amari Cooper was more encouraging:
#Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said he hopes rest will help WR Amari Cooper (heel) heal up and be ready to go for finale. Said Cooper tried hard to play Thursday but wasn't able to on short week.— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) December 29, 2023
Again, depending on the results of the Ravens versus the Dolphins, Cooper might get another week off to rest up and get ready for the playoffs.
With replacement kicker Riley Patterson missing an extra point on Thursday Night Football, questions about kicker Dustin Hopkins were important. Unfortunately, it seems that punter Corey Bojorquez is the only one likely to return this week if needed:
#Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said he doesn't know if K Dustin Hopkins, P Corey Bojorquez will be able to play in finale but said Bojorquez likely has better chance.— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) December 29, 2023
Cleveland needs Hopkins to be ready for the playoffs but having to elevate both a kicker and punter off the practice squad also limits the team’s flexibility to rest players in Week 18.
Between Hopkins and Moore, whose availability is more important to the team come playoff time?