Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders was without a doubt a rough one. Most of us are still trying to recover, but at some point, we have to move on. The result from the game that may have the biggest ripple effect on the Browns’ season is losing CB Terrance Mitchell to injury. Mitchell came out of the game in the first half after defending a pass to Jordy Nelson. He was carted off the field and it was announced he broke his arm. On Monday, he had surgery, which is leading people to believe he will be out for the rest of the season. Hue Jackson is remaining optimistic that he will be back this season, but it doesn’t seem likely. So, the question is, who steps up in his place?
Mitchell had signed this offseason to take over as the starting cornerback opposite of Denzel Ward. So far, he has been excellent and a key factor of the Browns’ defense. In four games, he had 19 tackles, three passes defended, one interception and two forced fumbles. In the first three games, he played an average of 83% of the defensive snaps. As you can see, these are big shoes to fill.
In the Oakland game, E.J. Gaines was the initial replacement. Gaines started the season off on the injury report and didn’t play any defense until the Oakland game. This was his first opportunity with the Browns and he stepped up. He played a total of 42 defensive snaps, which was 46% of the game. In that small amount of time he played, he had five combined tackles and a crucial interception. Gaines came in and did his job. This is his fifth season in the NFL, giving him solid experience on his side.
It may seem like this is Gaines’s spot to take, but T.J. Carrie might beg to differ. Carrie played in 74% of the defensive snaps on Sunday bringing his average to 62% in the last three games. He had a combined 12 tackles against Oakland. This brings his season total to 21 combined tackles and he has one pass defended.
Some could say that Brien Boddy-Calhoun is in the running too. They aren’t wrong, but his playing time has continued to go down. He also had the least amount of defensive snaps among the cornerbacks after Mitchell’s injury. It is expected that he will get more playing time, but he will not be the one replacing Mitchell.
So, who takes over for Mitchell?
Statistically, the case can be made that Carrie should be the one taking over for Mitchell. They both have the same amount of experience in the NFL. If you look at their contracts, Carrie wins with the four-year contract versus Gaines’ one-year contract. Based on recent reports, it seems that Gaines will take over for Mitchell, opposite of Ward, with Carrie as the third corner. This is consistent with what happened in the Oakland game, but I would expect to see both Gaines and Carrie getting a fair share of the defensive snaps. The defense will surely be missing Mitchell, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the corners who will step up.