The Cleveland Browns are the most snakebitten franchise in pro sports, constantly running up against the gremlins of bad coaching, quarterbacks more interested in partying than living up to their potential, truck-stop owners with financial problems and much, much more.
Basically, if it’s possible for something to go wrong with this franchise, then it will.
So it came to be that the near-inevitable spring practice injury happened, and it was shutdown corner of the future and fourth overall pick Denzel Ward who, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, left practice with an injury on Friday.
Fortunately, this particular snakebite was more garden snake than king cobra.
Browns coach Hue Jackson described the injury as “a little nick” and said he was just being cautious in cutting practice short for Ward.
Browns fans can exhale; this isn’t going to be a situation like the one that happened in Jacksonville in 2015, where third overall pick Dante Fowler tore his ACL at Jaguars minicamp and missed the entirety of what would have been his rookie season.
Browns beat reporter Mary Kay Cabot confirmed Graziano’s report, and posted a brief interview with the coach to Twitter.
When they drafted Ward, the Browns justified taking him fourth overall over pass rusher Bradley Chubb (who went fifth to Denver and was considered the best defensive talent in the draft).
Peter King, formerly of Sports Illustrated, got to the bottom of the Browns’ draft day thinking.
King asked Browns general manager John Dorsey after the draft, “If we gave (defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams sodium pentathol right now, who would he have said he wanted with the fourth pick — Denzel Ward or Bradley Chubb?”
Dorsey actually called Williams, who told King, “Ward. The reason is our need for a press cover cornerback. Denzel probably plays that position as well as anyone I’ve seen in college football in some time. We probably play the most press of any team in the league.”
“There’s another reason. I’ve got a video of 28 snaps of Myles Garrett pass-rushes last year where he gets within two steps or less of the quarterback when the ball comes out. Basically, we aren’t covering long enough to let him get to the quarterback. Myles and others — especially (defensive end) Emmanuel Ogbah — will get more chances because of Denzel.”
Williams also cited Ogbah’s presence as another reason the Browns chose to focus on the secondary over the front seven. “Ogbah’s a rising star in this league,” Williams said. “He’s got a chance to be Chubb.”
If Williams is correct in his assessment of Ogbah’s talent, the Browns could be poised to become a top-tier defense, which will take a lot of the pressure off first overall pick and future franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield.
But then again, if Ward’s injury is worse than initially feared, or Ogbah turns out to be more Vernon Gholston than Reggie White, Cleveland won’t just be snakebitten.
They’ll need Samuel L. Jackson to get all those snakes off the team plane.
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