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Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow is likely out for Monday night's game against the New York Giants after spending a second night in the hospital with an undisclosed illness.
Losing Winslow for any game, especially against the defending Super Bowl champions, is a major blow to the Browns and if it's a long-term issue, this really hurts an already struggling offense.
Winslow leads the Browns in receptions and receiving yards, in large part because his receiving range is not limited to the normal underneath routes or quick outs most tight ends run. Instead, he has the ability to line up at wide receiver and run the full range of routes that their wide receivers run. The Browns will line him up in the slot or out wide, which means they don't have to substitute in a third or fourth wide receiver in situations. When a team can line their tight end up as a wide receiver, the defense has to account for him with a safety or a linebacker, who often lack the cover skills necessary to shutdown someone with Winslow's skills.
With Winslow out, the Browns will replace him with backups Steve Heiden and Darnell Dinkins. Heiden and Dinkins are more along the lines of the typical tight end -- they lack the speed and route running skills to challenge coverages deep.
The Browns will now have to situationally substitute other players as needed. Where they were able to simply slide Winslow out wide to create three or four wide receiver sets, Cleveland will now have to substitute an additional receiver for Heiden or Dinkins to create those matchups. This allows the opposing defense to substitute situationally as well.
Not only are the Browns going to find it difficult to fill Winslow's shoes from a production standpoint, but it will end up taking three or four players to replace the skill sets that Winslow brings to the game. This is a team that doesn't have that kind of depth.