CLEVELAND — When asked about the Houston Texans this week, Browns running back Nick Chubb joked, "I see a lot of guys who played here, for one."
Chubb was referring to the Houston Texans' defense, which, if you're a Browns fan, contains a few familiar faces, as does the roster as a whole.
Getting ready for their home opener against the Texans at FirstEnergy, the Browns will see a lot of players on the visitor sideline of the field who once stood on the home sideline.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans have:
- CB Terrance Mitchell
- CB Tavierre Thomas
- LB Christian Kirksey
- S Eric Murray
It would have been more, but defensive tackle Vincent Taylor and linebacker Tae Davis were recently placed on the Reserved/Injured list.
Mitchell was with the Browns for three seasons and signed with Houston as a free agent in March. Thomas and Taylor signed with the Texans as free agents in the same week as Mitchell. Murray was traded to Cleveland in 2019 in exchange for Emmanuel Ogbah and signed with the Texans in 2020.
Kirksey, a fan favorite in Cleveland for years, was selected by the Browns in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. After six seasons with the Browns, Kirksey was released. He went on to sign with the Packers, where he spent the 2020 season before signing with the Texans in March.
Offensively, the Texans have:
- TE Pharaoh Brown
- QB Tyrod Taylor
Taylor is the starter heading into Sunday's game against the Browns. Taylor was injured while with the Browns in 2018, leading to the debut of No. 1 draft pick quarterback Baker Mayfield. Brown was with the Browns in 2018 and 2019 before being waived in 2020.
Plenty of familiar faces will be on the field, and even more were on the roster during training camp, when 10 former Browns suited up in steel blue and battle red.
Texans head coach David Culley said that it's just a coincidence that there are so many former Browns on his roster.
"Just a coincidence, and I think the availability, it just happened to be that way," Culley said Wednesday.
But it's hard to ignore the fact that so many former Browns players have found their way down to the team.
The former Browns players, some more impactful in their time in Cleveland than others, are looking forward to returning to Cleveland, hopeful to prove they've progressed in their game since being on a new team, Taylor said.
"I mean, any time you get a chance to play against your former team, it's definitely an opportunity for you to showcase how you've progressed as a player," Taylor said.
But he also added that he isn't planning on letting his return have too much influence on him during the game.
"Am I excited to go back? Yes, I am. But it's not about me, it's about our team here and us working hard throughout this week and us executing on Sunday," Taylor said.
Brown, who is a Cleveland native, is aiming to bring his best to his hometown, even with his family rocking orange and brown each week. He said he's been hearing about it from them all week.
Mentally, I think I'm in the same place. I want to go out there and I want to dominate them guys. I have a bunch of family, bunch of friends that are Browns fans. I've been hearing it. I can block out the social media, but I can't block out the family calls. So, I hear this stuff all week, and they talk the most, those Cleveland Brown fans, they just talk the most stuff that you can ever believe. They think that they have a great team. I know all them guys, and they all know that they should be getting ready to strap it up, because I'm coming. They were in training camp with me, I'm coming hard. It ain't no secret, it's not bulletin board material for them. The coaches know me, everybody knows me from the owner down, and I'm excited to go back. All I'm saying is we're coming. We'll be there Sunday.
Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry knows many of the former Browns players well and believes they'll pose a challenge, but he also thinks having played with them could help the team as they now go head-to-head with their former teammates.
"It will be great to see those guys. But I think at the same time, we’re both going out there to win for our teams. I’m going out there to win for the Browns. They’re going out there to win for the Texans. That holds true. But being able to have practiced against them, playing with them, you know a little bit more about what they can do, what they can’t do," Landry said.
For Chubb, seeing his former teammates take the field opposite him is something new to him and exciting at the same time.
"This is my first time actually seeing it happen like that—guys I've played with being across from me on the other team. I'm excited to see some of the guys, for one thing. I'm excited to play against them, too," Chubb said. "We have a great challenge ahead of us.”
As the 0-1 Browns continue their preparations for Sunday's game against the 1-0 Texans, they're pumping in the crowd noise to replicate a packed FirstEnergy Stadium and and a rowdy, raucous Dawg Pound—a sound that the former Browns players will find themselves on the opposite end of this time.
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