BEREA, Ohio – The losses are piling up for the Browns – in the standings, and on the sideline.
On Wednesday, two defensive starters were added to the stack.
Cleveland placed cornerback E.J. Gaines, a Fort Osage High School graduate and former University of Missouri star, and linebacker Christian Kirksey on injured reserve, ending their seasons with seven games remaining and putting further strain on a unit lacking quality depth and experience.
"Those two guys, they really set a precedent for what we wanted to do as a team, as a defense," said cornerback T.J. Carrie. "And, of course, they'll still be here sparingly in and out throughout the week, but it's a lot different when they were on the field fighting with you, blood, sweat and tears with you, through the trenches.
"We're going to definitely miss that. Those are two players that we can't replace."
One of the team's captains, Kirksey injured his left hamstring in the second quarter Sunday as the Browns (2-6-1) lost their fourth straight game, 37-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Gaines sustained his second concussion in three weeks when he took a knee to the helmet while trying to make a tackle in the first quarter.
The Browns are expected to have defensive back Damarious Randall for Sunday's game against Atlanta after he missed last week's game with a groin injury.
Randall, who has played cornerback and free safety, felt he was healthy enough to play last week, but Williams kept him out so he would have the versatile defensive back for multiple games. Randall's absence became magnified when Ward and Gaines went down on the Chiefs' opening drive, forcing Williams to adjust his game plan against the NFL's most electrifying offense and play seldom-used reserves Denzel Rice and Tavierre Thomas.
"It's very hard," Carrie said of losing two key players. "It changes the game plan. It changes a lot of things because you can only give practice reps to so many guys, and so you get guys that come in and they're athletes, but it's hard when you don't know the schematics of the little details that we put in for that game."