CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns’ already thin secondary could be even thinner when they take on the Tennessee Titans in a battle of AFC teams at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
The Browns (0-6) listed cornerback Jason McCourty (ankle) and safety Jabrill Peppers (toe) as questionable on Friday’s injury report, meaning both players have a 50-50 chance at playing against the Titans, who are in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC South Division.
“I think there is an opportunity for some of them to have an opportunity [to play],” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “We will just kind of see where it is tomorrow, but I need to go in and see the medical staff now and see where they are.”
The Browns went in search of depth, leadership and experience for their secondary in free agency, and they quickly identified McCourty as someone who could provide the help they needed.
Since joining the Browns, McCourty ranks among the NFL’s best defensive backs. Currently, McCourty is tied for the second-most interceptions (three) and third-most passes defended (nine) through the first six games of the season. He returned one of those interceptions 56 yards for his first career touchdown in last week’s 33-17 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston.
“He is somebody in the locker room that we can depend on with the younger guys,” Jackson said. “He has had great leadership that way. He has been a great teammate. Obviously, he has made some huge plays for us this year.”
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams added, “He is playing really well. I don’t know a whole lot about how this is ranked or whatever, but someone brought it to my attention a couple nights ago that in the Pro Football Focus stat, he is the No. 1 corner in the National Football League. I didn’t know that. He is playing pretty well for us.”
According to Jackson, McCourty “tweaked his ankle in practice” Thursday.
“Obviously, there is (Briean) Boddy-Calhoun who we can stick out there, but we will cross that bridge when we know for sure,” Jackson said. “We have some guys that we can play there -- Michael Jordan. We have other guys here. At the same time, we want McCourty to be there. He is one of our best players.”
Even if the Browns get McCourty back in time for Sunday, losing Peppers would affect the plans in multiple phases, as he is the team’s main kick and punt returner in addition to starting at free safety.
Peppers has returned 17 punts for 109 yards with a long of 25 yards and seven kickoffs for 148 yards through the first six games of the season.
“I may do that, absolutely,” Jackson said of replacing Peppers as a returner even if he is healthy enough to play Sunday.
“If it is something that we can help him with throughout the game, no question. We will do whatever we think we need to do to have him have success, but also, be able to help our football team as we go through this game this weekend.”