Mohamed Massaquoi is hurt, and without the wide receiver Cleveland’s passing attack could be hurting against Baltimore.
Massaquoi will miss Thursday night’s game against the Ravens with an injured hamstring. Massaquoi, who was off to a strong start this season, strained his left hamstring in the second half of Sunday’s loss to Buffalo and did not practice the past two days. Before leaving for Baltimore on Wednesday, the Browns reported Massaquoi is out, meaning rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden won’t have his top wide receiver against the Ravens
Massaquoi has nine catches for a team-high 145 yards and has developed a nice chemistry with Weeden.
Massaquoi’s injury will likely give Jordan Norwood his first playing time this season and force Cleveland’s other wide receivers to step up their games for the Browns to have any chance of ending a nine-game losing streak.
Greg Little could become a primary target, but he’s coming off a game in which he dropped a big pass, leading coach Pat Shurmur this week to say he would consider sitting the second-year player. It’s also possible that return specialist Josh Cribbs could take more offensive snaps against the Ravens. He caught one pass for 24 yards last week and Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress said Cribbs’ playing time could increase.
”We’re going to water drop him in there, but to tell you that he would have a leading role, I would be misleading anybody to say that,” Childress said. ”We’re going to have plays for him in there that are his plays. Even though they’re his plays, it doesn’t mean the ball is going to be able go to him just by virtue of some of the progressions we have. We can look at him, if he’s gloved or he’s covered, then you can’t go there.
”You could have the best intentions with Josh and still not be able to get him the football.”
The Browns also need to get more production from rookie Josh Gordon, who had three catches for 40 yards against the Bills and showed signs of breaking out. Cleveland drafted the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder in the second round of the supplemental draft to make plays and it may be time for Gordon to start making some.
”You see flashes in some of his play and what he does,” Childress said. ”He hasn’t had a tremendous amount opportunities around the ball, at least as the regular season has started. He’s been semi-productive when he has been around the ball. ”
Weeden will try to stretch the Ravens’ ball-hawking defense and to do that he needs to connect on a long pass with rookie speedster Travis Benjamin. Weeden has just missed on several long throws to Benjamin, who caught a 22-yard TD pass last week.
”Somewhere you’ve got to hit one of those or otherwise they go in the books as a long foul ball,” Childress said. ”We’ve had a couple opportunities up the field and we need to hit a couple of those things because those have a way of taking some people out of where you’re playing.”
Norwood could give Weeden an option underneath. Norwood, who has been inactive for Cleveland’s first three games, made four starts last season. He had 23 receptions for 268 yards and a touchdown, and toward the end of the season was one of the only Browns receivers able to get separation from defenders off the line of scrimmage.
The Browns will also face the Ravens without tight end Alex Smith, who will miss his second straight game with a concussion. Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson continues to be sidelined with injured ribs and won’t play.
Browns safety and special teams dynamo Ray Ventrone is listed as questionable. He played last week after undergoing surgery on a broken thumb.