These Browns’ players have one last shot against the Bengals
Just because the Browns aren’t going to the playoffs doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to play for. Cleveland as a whole clearly didn’t have a desire to play for a winning record or to defeat the Steelers, but maybe they’ll be more inclined to play for their futures.
The Browns have a bunch of expiring contracts on their roster and other guys who are fighting for more playing time and some of those guys will get to showcase themselves once more against the Bengals in the season finale.
There are more than five of those types of players but we’re only looking at five today. So these are the five players I think need the best showing against the Bengals to justify their future.
Five players who need a good showing against the Bengals
It’s very likely that even if Kareem Hunt doesn’t play against the Bengals, that he’ll be back for the 2022 season, that said, Hunt has missed a lot of games recently and if the Browns are spooked by the possibility that he’s becoming injury prone, they can get out of his deal for just $1.5 million in penalties. That would mean, however, that the Cleveland brass has faith in D’Ernest Johnson. Johnson could be showing prospective teams what he’s capable of, as he’s a free agent. So either way, Johnson has a lot to prove against Cinncinatti.
If you were to tell me that you didn’t think Donovan Peoples-Jones could start for the Browns in 2022, that wouldn’t be a crazy thing. What is a crazy thing is to expect Cleveland to be able to upgrade the position through free agency, as it’s expected to be quite shallow. So unless they trade for a top guy or draft a top name, it’s very likely that Peoples-Jones is back next season. Yet, what will his role be? He may be able to help define that against Cinncinati. If he was held back by Baker Mayfield as some claim, he’ll have the opportunity to prove it.
The theory as to Case Keenum’s lack of playing time this year, despite a wounded starter ahead of him, is that Kevin Stefanski must not have faith in him; after all, why not deactivate his starter after a torn labrum if he did? There might be other reasons (perhaps Keenum owes an outstanding Monopoly dept?) that explain Keenum’s lack of playing time but what’s clear is that he’s playing for his job and NFL future against the Bengals.
For someone who was expected to have a big season in 2022 with a healthy Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham ahead of him, to say he utterly disappointed is an understatement. He’s played in 15 games, totaling just 24 receptions, gaining just275 yards, and dropping anything that wasn’t nailed down. It seems unlikely Higgins gets brought back if there are any other options out there to improve the receiver corp but he may help his chances of returning with a big game.
Malik Jackson is out with COVID and will more than likely miss the season finale, plus Malik McDowell is now injured as well as having been atrocious all year. That means that Tommy Togiai may have a chance to improve his stock with a big outing against the Bengals. Togiai has been overwhelmed at times, which isn’t entirely surprising, as he wasn’t even a starter with the Ohio State Buckeyes before getting drafted. Outside of receiver, the most pressing need this team has is a defensive tackle. Togiai isn’t out of a job, but if he wants to be included in the plans for next year, he has to have a big game.