Browns starting LT Wills out versus Chargers, LB Walker back

NFL

CLEVELAND (AP)Baker Mayfield’s blind side – and damaged left shoulder – will be protected by a backup this week.

Browns starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. will not play Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers due to a nagging ankle injury he suffered in the season opener at Kansas City.

After listing him as questionable, the Browns ruled out Wills on Saturday before flying to California. The 2020 first-round pick from Alabama started the past three weeks despite not practicing.

Wills was forced to leave last week’s win at Minnesota in the second half after aggravating the injury and was replaced by rookie James Hudson, who will likely start against the Chargers (3-1).

One of Hudson’s jobs will be keeping Chargers defenders off Mayfield, who has played the past two games with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. If they’re worried about Hudson, the Browns could start Blake Hance, who filled in at left guard for last year’s playoff win and is versatile enough to play tackle.

While they’ll be without Wills this week, the Browns have their man in the middle back.

Cleveland starting linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. was activated from injured reserve and will make his return Sunday after missing three games with a hamstring injury.

While he was out, the defense posted back-to-back impressive performances in wins over Chicago and Minnesota, holding the Bears and Vikings to a combined 20 points.

Cleveland’s defense is ranked second overall in the NFL going into the matchup against Los Angeles and Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.

”It’s been fun to watch,” Walker said of the unit’s turnaround following a slow start. ”The guys are clicking on all cylinders right now. Being able to stop the run and then rush coverage has been great, and getting off the field on third down. I’m definitely looking forward to keep trending in that right direction.”

Walker signed with Cleveland as a free agent after four seasons with Indianapolis. He had a team-leading 10 tackles in a season-opening loss at Kansas City before injuring a hamstring the next week in practice.

The Browns (3-1) need Walker back as their defense is dealing with injuries to several key contributors.

All-Pro end Myles Garrett is questionable after missing two practices this week with lower-leg injuries. Garrett didn’t disclose exactly what’s bothering him, but he said Friday he expects to play.

Ends Jadeveon Clowney (elbow) and Takk McKinley (ankle/knee), cornerback Denzel Ward (neck), nickelback Troy Hill (toe), and linebacker Malcolm Smith (abdomen) are all questionable.

Starting rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II will miss his second straight game with a calf injury. His replacement, Greedy Williams, made his first career interception last week.

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

The Browns also signed defensive end Joe Jackson to the practice squad and elevated him to the active roster. Safety Jovante Moffatt was added to the active roster.

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