5 reasons the Browns defense underperforms expectations

Browns, Myles Garrett. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Browns, Myles Garrett. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns Denzel Ward. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

3. Denzel Ward’s season has been a disaster

There is no kind way to say it, but Denzel Ward’s season has been a disaster.

He was expected to be part of a big three on defense, along with Myles Garrett anchoring the defensive line and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah starring at linebacker. He was given a $100 million dollar contract extension starting next season.

However, he currently grades outside the top 100 among cornerbacks graded by Pro Football Focus. Based on 32 NFL teams and 64 nominal starters, He has been barely second string. How can he have slid so far in only one season?

Injuries are a part of it. He’s currently struggling with a pulled hamstring and a sprained ankle. Previously he had a severe concussion and missed three games. As fans, it’s impossible to know what individual athletes are going through from week to week.

While the players never use injuries as an excuse, as fans we probably cut the player some slack if we have seen them perform brilliantly in the past. We don’t know what the problem is with Ward, but we do know that he has a shell of his former self.

However, according to Fox Sports, Ward missed four games in 2019 with a hamstring injury and two games in 2021 with a hamstring injury. The Browns seem to be among the league leaders in hamstring injuries. Still, we have to question whether a player with an extensive injury history is worth a world-class contract extension. It’s doubtful whether any NFL team would offer anything in trade, so the Browns are really, really stuck with a huge contract, worthy of a quarterback, that they just cannot afford.

At this point, it’s not clear whether Ward can come back to his All-Pro form or not. As a minimum the training staff has its work cut out for them to restore his physical conditioning and ability. However, the decline in his play has been so precipitous that it is hard to predict with confidence that he will make it back all the way.