Even Denzel Ward would likely admit that 2022 wasn't his best season. The Cleveland Browns selection at No. 4 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft had already proven to be a stud but he was forced to play far too much zone coverage last year. Then in 2023, he was allowed to go back to what he does best.
With Jim Schwartz replacing Joe Woods as the defensive coordinator, Ward has been allowed to play man coverage once again — as have the rest of the cornerbacks in Cleveland. The result has been fantastic with the Browns standing out as one of the best defenses in the entire NFL. As for Ward, he's been on an insane tear, allowing a passer rating of just 26.8 this year when going one-on-one.
He's also the first player in league history to record at least two interceptions and break-up 10 passes in each of his first six seasons in the NFL. While the pass defenses stat hasn't been around for too long, it's still an amazing feat which tells us how good the Warden has been. Unfortunately, Cleveland might have to be without him for some time.
Mary Kay Cabot recently reported that a shoulder injury could sideline Ward for more than one game. While she didn't have an estimated timeline, the fact that she said "games" is worrisome. Especially considering the historic pace Ward has been playing at.
Cleveland Browns secondary is dealing with a lot of injuries
In addition to Ward being hurt, Cleveland saw Grant Delpit and Juan Thornhill sit out on Wednesday. They also recently signed Duron Harmon to replace Rodney McLeod, who was recently sent to the IR. He's not expected to return from that but rookie Cam Mitchell, who was playing at a high level before he was sidelined, should be eligible to return soon. They've even had Greg Newsome miss time this season, although he appears to be fully healthy at this point.
Thankfully, there's a lot of depth there as Martin Emerson has proven he's more than capable of handling the No. 1 wide receiver and Newsome is also having the best season of his career. After losing Mitchell, the Browns asked special teams ace Mike Ford to step in and he responded well, even recording a pick against Baltimore.
General manager Andrew Berry deserves a lot of credit for constantly adding depth, and the secondary is one of the many examples of him filling out a complete roster. Having said that, losing Ward is nothing to scoff at. But even with him out, there's hope that this team will continue to rise to the occasion and if they can get Ward, Mitchell, and the rest of their secondary healthy for the playoffs, there's no telling how far this team can go.