Aug. 27—The Browns search for a third running back took them down a different path Aug. 27 when they traded backup offensive tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr. to the Patriots for running back Pierre Strong Jr.
Strong, 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, is in his second NFL season. The Patriots selected him in the fourth round of the 2022 draft out of South Dakota. Strong appeared in 15 games as a rookie. He rushed for 100 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown and added seven catches for 42 yards.
“That was an opportunity that came our way,” Coach Kevin Stefanski said on a Zoom call. “We feel good about adding Pierre, somebody that we’ve done a bunch of work on. We’ll see how quickly we can get him up to speed.
“This is what happens around this time and really throughout the season. You start to add players and it’s our job to ramp them up as quickly as possible so they can understand our language, how we operate, so they can help us potentially down the line.”
Jordan Wilkins, a running back with five years in the league signed by the Browns a couple of weeks ago, was cut after the trade for Strong was completed. Wilkins fumbled two handoffs in the game with the Chiefs.
Strong returned five kicks for 115 yards with the Patriots last season. The Browns are looking to improve their kick return situation because Jakeem Grant is out for the year.
Grant suffered a patellar tendon injury returning the opening kickoff against the Chiefs. Grant missed all of 2022 with a torn Achilles tendon.
“I’m very, very disappointed for Jakeem,” Stefanski said. “To see a guy that works so hard to come back from the previous injuries. I marvel at his strength, and I know his teammates do as well, so that’s a tough one.
“Obviously, we had high hopes for Jakeem as our returner. We have internal candidates. We’ll always be looking for external candidates as well. So, things that we’re working through right now.”
Demetric Felton returned kicks and punts in preseason. Jerome Ford can return kicks, but he is recovering from a hamstring injury.
—Linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk has a knee injury and will be out “multiple weeks,” Stefanski said. The Browns were already down a linebacker because Jacob Phillips is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle.
On the bright side, Stefanski said he expects Anthony Walker (quadriceps injury) and Sione Takitaki (ACL) to be ready for the opener Sept. 10. Neither played in the preseason.
—The news on wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is also good. Goodwin has been unable to practice because blood clots were discovered in his legs and lungs, but that has cleared up so he is being moved from the non-football injury list to the active roster.
“That’s great news for Marquise, great news for us,” Stefanski said. “He’s been involved in everything. In the meeting room, on the practice field, during those games. He’s such a supportive teammate, and so to have him progressing to where he can start to get ready for the season, I think is outstanding.”
Stefanski isn’t ready to say when Goodwin will be ready to play in games.
—Cornerback Denzel Ward is in concussion protocol. This is the fourth time the 2018 first-round draft pick from Ohio State has been in this situation.
—The Browns made the following moves on Aug. 27 to reduce the roster to 76. Notably, wide receiver Anthony Schwartz was waived with an injury (hamstring) designation. The roster must be at 53 by 4 p.m. Aug. 29.
Grant was placed on injured reserve.
Cornerback Caleb Biggers, LB Cam Bright, TE Miller Forristall, TE Thomas Greaney, CB Gavin Heslop, T Derrick Kelly II, S Nate Meadors, Schwartz and WR Jalen Wayne were waived.
The contracts of Wilkins and guard G Colby Gossett were terminated.