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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Browns, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

2. Expectations for JOK were out of whack

This is probably the fault of the media rather than the player, but expectations were sky high for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to join Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward to form a “Big Three” for the Browns defense.

Garrett was to have been the superstar on the defensive line, Ward would have been the superstar in the secondary, and Owusu-Koramoah was thought to be ready to step up and challenge for a spot on the Pro Bowl roster after a brilliant rookie campaign.

When he was drafted, the buzz was that he slid out of the first round due to a concern about an irregular heartbeat that was picked up at the Scouting Combine. This turned out to not be an issue, however, and the Browns appeared to have gotten a first-round talent in the second round. From the get-go, expectations were high. He has great cover skills and tackles like a heat-seeking missile.

In the offseason, JOK was ranked among the top-10 linebackers in the NFL by Pro Football Focus and was given an honorable mention by ESPN Insider in their evaluations of top players at each position.

Of course, in the Cleveland community, we were only too quick to pounce on this and predict a great future for the young man. We may still be right about that. However, it is a lot to expect from a player who, at the end of the day, was a second-round draft pick.

This season, he has been slowed by knee injuries and a few other issues and has not quite had the year that had been predicted for him. He has been plenty good enough to play for the Cleveland Browns, especially since they have lost Anthony Walker, Jr. and Jacob Phillips to the injured reserve. In addition, Mack Wilson was traded for injury-prone Chase Winovich, which has thinned out the roster considerably.

Again, those of us in the media were probably wrong to hype JOK too quickly, but if you are wondering why the Browns did not roll out a top-five defense in 2022, one reason is that, collectively, the football universe was expecting too much out of the Browns’ linebackers, and particularly JOK.

Injuries didn’t help, but the Browns usually play only two linebackers and JOK and Sione Takitaki are very good. Injuries should not be used as an excuse. Jordan Kunaszyk and Tony Fields have performed well as backups. Deion Jones has not impressed as a high-priced midseason acquisition. Willie Harvey, who has made cameo appearances with the Browns since 2018, would have been a better choice for less money.