The Browns promoted linebacker Scott Solomon from the practice squad as a corresponding move.
Marred by injuries all season, the Browns are getting thin in the defensive backfield. Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden is questionable this week with a shoulder injury, and starting nickel corner K'Waun Williams will miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury.
Veteran safety Jim Leonhard will start his fourth consecutive game in replace of Gipson.
Haden did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, and was limited on Friday.
"There’s still a good amount of time for it to quiet down for him, so we’ll see how he feels on Sunday," coach Mike Pettine said.
Haden was injured when he tried to make a diving interception in the first quarter against Cincinnati.
The Panthers' top receiver is rookie Kelvin Benjamin, who has 67 catches for 952 yards, nine touchdowns and 14 receptions of 20 yards or more.
- If both are out, the playing time for rookies Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir will increase.
- The Browns scaled back the speed of practice, then moved inside all week. Pettine lamented being inside, saying it’s "cramped quarters."
- The Akron Beacon Journal did some research and found that only nine players have played in 100 games for the Browns since 1999: KR Josh Cribbs, ILB Andra Davis, PK Phil Dawson, TE Steve Heiden, CB Daylon McCutcheon, LS Ryan Pontbriand, DL Orpheus Roye and offensive tackle Joe Thomas. The ninth will play in his 100th game in Carolina; DT Ahtyba Rugin.
- The saddest part of that list is three of the nine are specialists -- with a kicker, returner and long snapper represented.
- The Browns' streak of four games in a row with no touchdowns and at least two interceptions is the NFL’s longest since 1977, and the third longest since 1970, according to Elias.
- The Browns have lost 10 December/January games in a row, longest in the NFL.
- A win Sunday would give the Browns an NFC South sweep. They have already beat Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta.
- It would also mean that half their wins came against NFC South teams, all of which are at least two games below .500.
Brett Favre had a 99-yard game. Jim Kelly had 93 yards, Dan Marino a 90-yarder, Terry Bradshaw 80 yards (like Manziel) and Tom Brady a 76-yard game. Joe Namath had a 49-yard effort, John Elway 43.
It happens -- even to some of the best.
And it happened one of the greatest Browns ever.
In the 1953 Championship Game against the Detroit Lions, Otto Graham completed 2-of-15 passes for 20 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
If the present-day passer rating were applied to that game, Graham’s rating would have been a zero.
“Otto had the protection and plenty of time to throw, but was missing the target,” wrote the Plain Dealer report after the game.
Graham even had a fumble that Detroit recovered and turned into its first touchdown.
So ... it happens.
A little more on this game that’s interesting: Even with Graham’s struggles, the Browns almost won. Detroit needed a late 80-yard drive and a touchdown pass with 2:08 left in a 17-16 win.
The touchdown came as Bobby Layne found Jim Doran for a 33-yard score. The story goes that Doran had been running ins and outs on Browns cornerback Warren Lahr all day, and before the play Doran told Layne he had Lahr set up. Doran faked the cut, then drove straight down the field and Layne found him for what Harold Sauerbrei called “an easy catch” in the Plain Dealer.
Players weren’t paid excessively in those days, so the Monday after the game Lahr reported for his sales job at the Braden-Sutphin Ink Co., a company owned by Al Sutphin, who built the old Cleveland Arena and brought the Barons to Cleveland. (Braden-Sutphin is still in business at East 93rd and Aetna).
At the sales meeting that Monday morning, one of the other sales reps looked at Lahr and asked: What was the price for throwing the game?
There is no word on whether Lahr went over the table in response.
The NFL fined Moss $22,050 for his tirade at halftime of the Redskins' 24-13 loss to the New York Giants. Moss was upset, as were teammates and coaches, after officials overturned an apparent touchdown at the halftime gun by quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Griffin had dived for a touchdown, but after watching it on replay, officials ruled that he had lost the ball before crossing the goal line. Therefore, he had to regain possession through the play. But when he fumbled as he hit the ground in the end zone, they ruled it a touchback for New York. Moss shouted at officials as they left the field amid a cluster of Redskins and was ejected.
"I regret it but I don't take nothing back," Moss said about the tirade after the game.
In other fines:
But Manziel might not get the same treatment in the film room. That goes for any player.
That about answers it.
"I know there are some positions where you feel you can’t be as tough as others, but I don’t know if I necessarily agree that," Pettine said. "Guys, they want to be coached. Most guys are OK with being coached hard. More guys appreciate it more than don’t as long as it’s not done in a disrespectful way."
Manziel seems open to the coaching based on his tone this week. Manziel said he was "absolutely" humbled by Sunday's 80-yard, two-interception performance. Manziel is more of a humble guy about his football than the Johnny Football persona would suggest, but even so, that game would be a major humble dose for anyone.
The Browns need that humility to translate to production. Veterans such as Joe Thomas said they've seen progress in Manziel during the week.
"It’s just impossible to predict, just because it’s such a function of how we play around him," Pettine said. "Will there be improvement? Absolutely counting on that. At the same time, as we’ve said all along, we have to play well around him."
Thomas approaching Hall of Fame company: Thomas is poised to make his eighth consecutive Pro Bowl. The list of players who went 8-for-8 on Pro Bowl appearances since their rookie years is flooded with Hall of Famers.
In fact, all of them are enshrined -- Merlin Olsen, Joe Greene, Mel Renfro, Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas, Franco Harris, Jim Brown, Lou Creekmur, Dick Butkus and Les Richter. (stats courtesy of Thomas' agent, Peter Schaffer).
"I guess we'll find out next week," Thomas said.
Thomas has been a constant figure for a franchise that changes more than a runway show. Now he just needs to feel the playoffs for the first time.
"I'm still positive and optimistic that my best days record-wise as a team are in the near future," Thomas said.
Many played poorly and the offense accounted for 107 total yards, with Johnny Manziel throwing for 80. Total. Those just are not professional numbers, and now the Browns are basing their hope on Manziel starting again on hope. That is the hope that he will get better in a week.
It's a long shot against a team with Luke Kuechly that is still in the playoff hunt. Manziel would have to improve exponentially for the Browns expect to have a chance. It's too much to ask.
My prediction: Panthers 27, Browns 9.
Luke Kuechly is the second best. They get him this weekend in Carolina.
Kuechly shows the unpredictability and vagaries of the NFL draft. After Luck was taken first overall, Kuechly waited eight more picks before the Panthers took him.
He’s now among the best middle linebackers in the game.
He leads the NFL with 138 tackles. But add to that three sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and nine passes defensed.
While Robert Griffin III drew a mob at the NFL scouting combine, with people writing about his socks, Kuechly drew a small media crowd and talked in a humble manner about his future.
This came after he had led Boston College -- and the NCAA -- in tackles two years in a row -- and after he had 158 tackles after starting all but one game as a freshman. Kuechly won every college award he could. Prior to the draft, ESPN draft analysts compared him to Brian Urlacher.
Simply put, he can play.
He became a Boston College guy, but before that, he was an Ohio/Cincinnati/Xavier guy. He combines his amazing ability with film preparation and tremendous instincts.
In short, he’s exactly what an inexperienced quarterback might not want to face because he’s so smart and quick to react.
The guy is pure football player, and if the draft were based on pure football ability, he’d have been taken in the top three or, at worst, the top five.
Here's a look at the players taken between him and Luck in that draft:
2. RG3 -- Benched and the subject of constant drama in Washington.
3. RB Trent Richardson, by the Browns. Traded to Indianapolis.
4. OT Matt Kalil, Vikings. Has given up a league-high 12 sacks.
5. WR Justin Blackmon, Jaguars. Suspended.
6. CB Morris Claiborne, Cowboys. Injured for season.
7. S Mark Barron, Bucs. Traded to Rams for fourth- and sixth-round picks.
8. QB Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins. Having solid season as Miami’s starter.
Opt for a confidence boost over tough love.
They've acknowledged Manziel looked indecisive at times, but that usually comes with the follow-up that the offense had similar problems.
Perhaps the tough love comes behind the scenes, but the Browns seem to recognize that now is the time for building Manziel up, not tearing him down.
This feels like a sound strategy -- the Browns had better hope it works.
Either Shanahan is an eternal optimist or he saw enough encouragement from Manziel through the nuances of studying the 38 offensive plays Sunday to suggest Manziel's problems are fixable.
Stepping into throws with conviction was Manziel's biggest issue, and Manziel has been earnest about improving in that area this week.
I said this three weeks ago and I'll say it again: It doesn't matter whether Manziel or Brian Hoyer are the quarterback if the Browns can't run the ball. Cleveland has hit its second run-game dry spell of the year, averaging 3.2 yards per carry in the last three weeks (242 yards on 75 tries).
That number is survivable if your offense is built on the pass. The Browns' offense is not.
The missed details in the running game are all around left guard Joel Bitonio. He sees guard-center double teams when it should be tackle-guard. He sees failure to account for a safety creeping up or "not quite making it to the linebacker" up the middle, he says.
This has been life for the Browns' offensive line, which Bitonio said actually graded out well Sunday. But when they missed assignments, they missed big.
"One play, one guy gets beat and it's a tackle for a loss, Then he does his job great and another guy gets beat and then it just looks terrible," Bitonio said. "We need to be on the same page every day...That’s the whole goal so Johnny has more time to be back there to throw the ball. We don’t want defenses teeing off."
For the factors Bitonio described, Pettine is right when he says it's "unfair" to judge Manziel on one game. But considering all the circumstances -- the timing, the Browns' chances at a winning season unraveling, the critics quick to bash -- now is the perfect time for the blocks to be tight, the tailbacks to be instinctive and Manziel's decisions to be crisp.
BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan isn't burying his quarterback. In fact, he's building him up.
Johnny Manziel struggled in his NFL debut Sunday but needed more help from teammates that never came in the 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Shanahan said. Sunday's game against the Panthers in Carolina "couldn't come quick enough" for the entire offense, Shanahan said, especially Manziel.
"I felt bad for him," Shanahan said. "I know he had a lot of pressure on him. Any time someone has that pressure, they want to go out and perform. He definitely didn't play his best, but I don't think we helped him, either."
Manziel finished 10-of-18 for 80 yards, two interceptions and a 27.3 passer rating, suffering the first shutout by a first-time starter since Tennessee's Rusty Smith in 2010. The Browns are looking for Manziel, a mobile quarterback, to find a balance between choosing when to run and when to plant and throw.
Manziel said he second-guessed himself too often Sunday. The expectation was the Browns would roll out Manziel on bootlegs to give him open space to run the offense. Shanahan called two bootlegs, in part because the Bengals tried to take that away.
Manziel has "no problem" running the ball despite his five carries for 13 yards Sunday, but the Browns know the runs won't always be there if teams force him to stay in the pocket.
The Browns' rushing game is averaging 80.7 yards in the past three games, a downward trend for an offense built on the running game. Manziel has the mental makeup to shrug off the sluggish play, Shanahan said.
The play symbolized the approach from the coaching staff, and the way the day went for the players, as the Bengals clearly came prepared for what the Browns wanted to do.
The Browns brought a formation out of mothballs, lining up four receivers to the far right in a diamond arrangement and one split left.
Shanahan said the play was a triple-option.
"Depending on how they lined up -- I can’t give you all the secrets -- there were a bunch of different things he could do with (the ball) spreading them out,” Shanahan said. "It ended up being a draw."
The options were not hard to see on the tape of the game, given the play was third-and-2. If the Bengals don't have enough with the bunch, the Browns have an advantage. If the defense puts four people with the diamond, then the quarterback looks left. The Bengals did put four, so Manziel looked left.
That receiver was Josh Gordon, who ran a slant. But safety Reggie Nelson read the slant and jumped the route. That, plus the up-the-field action from the defensive end, meant Manziel had no throw.
So he ran. And Nelson recovered to make the tackle. The Bengals basically abandoned the middle of the field -- one safety was with the bunch, Nelson jumped the slant -- to take away what the Browns wanted to do.
What does all this say?
It says that teams have a decent idea what to expect with Manziel at quarterback, and they have the ability to match his movements.
It says that the Browns weren’t exactly trying a lot on offense with Manziel in the game -- Shanahan also said he called just two roll-outs because he didn’t want to put Manziel in a "knockout" play.
It probably says that Carolina will watch the film and take the same approach as the Bengals -- muddle the middle, keep ends wide and pressure the throw.
Carolina has the advantage that it’s used to defending the read-option and bootleg. They see it all the time with Cam Newton in practice.
Manziel has another opportunity to prove himself.
But it doesn’t figure to be a whole lot easier.
He last earned the Ground Player of the Week award when he rushed for 152 yards in a Week 9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
This latest award comes after Hill was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday for his efforts in last weekend's shutout win. It was the first time since Week 14 of last season that a Bengal had earned conference weekly or monthly honors. Quarterback Andy Dalton had three last year.
Along with Hill, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was named FedEx Air Player of the Week for being the best quarterback in Week 15, according to FedEx fan survey.
FedEx announced it also will be making a $2,000 donation in Hill's name to the Cincinnati American Red Cross chapter.
But Dansby told ESPN on Thursday, "it's all up in the air" if the team will shut him down after the biggest hurdle to recovery is making lateral movements from the linebacker spot.
Dansby, who's missed four weeks with the injury, didn't sound as positive as in previous weeks. Coach Mike Pettine originally diagnosed the injury as a month-long recovery, and Dansby injured the knee 32 days ago against Houston.
"I'm trying to do what I can to get back," Dansby said. "It's a tough injury, especially at my position, all the lateral movements and that kind of stuff. It's detrimental. I can't go out there and put some bad film out there and let the guys down in this room. That's one thing I do not want to do. I'm not that selfish to go out there and do that. It's a fine line. You have to be smart and look at it from the bigger picture. If I'm healthy enough to go out there and do it, I'll do it."
Dansby was one of the Browns' most impactful defensive players through the first 10 games with 73 tackles, three sacks and an interception.