X-Factor No. 2: Denzel Ward
Ever since that brutal late-August practice sidelined rookie safety Grant Delpit and Greedy Williams, the Browns secondary has been in shambles.
On Sunday, the Browns were able to intercept Washington’s Dwayne Haskins three times and cause a forced fumble. The frenzy of turnovers helped ease the pain of how patched up this defense really is.
Ward was a game-time decision with a groin injury heading into Sunday’s matchup against Washington. Ward only ended up playing 29 defensive snaps, 45 percent of the defensive plays, after he reaggravated that injury.
Williams was limited in practice all week, which is a good indicator that his shoulder injury could be behind him and ready to go against the Cowboys. Kevin Johnson, who lacerated his liver during practice, was a full participant in last Thursday’s practice and could also be nearing a return to the field.
A healthy secondary, starting with Ward, is imperative if the Browns want to slow down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense. Throughout their first three games, the Cowboys are averaging over 29 points per game. In two of those games, Prescott threw for over 400 yards.
If Ward and the rest of the secondary are banged up, it could quickly become a long day for the Browns defense. On the flip side, if Ward and Co. can play, they could limit Amari Cooper’s production and force the Cowboys to run the ball behind their damaged offensive line.