The Baltimore Ravens embarrassed the Cleveland Browns during the opening week of the season—but they have embarrassed a lot of teams defensively since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback 25 games ago. Cleveland did better in a win against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week Two, and it looks as though they will be getting some major defensive reinforcements.
Three defensive starters returned to practice this week after missing the first two games of the season, including two second-year players and a free agent signing. Mack Wilson at inside linebacker was initially feared lost for the season, for example, but is already working his way back in.
Two members of the secondary are also on their way back, including 2019 second-round starting cornerback Greedy Williams. The Browns signed veteran Kevin Johnson during free agency to take over the nickel role. He suffered a lacerated liver in training camp that has kept him out, but he too is back on the field.
Imagine the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense without Devin Bush, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton. While it’s not a one-for-one comparison, that is roughly what the Browns were facing with their defensive injuries over the first two weeks of the season. That’s not to mention the loss of rookie safety Grant Delpit, who was projected to be a starter before he was injured in training camp.
Veteran former free agent signing Terrance Mitchell started the past two games at cornerback for Williams. “I know on a depth chart you have to list two starting corners, but it is a good problem for us to have guys that we feel very confident in to play”, head coach Kevin Stefanski said about his play.
The Browns were also impressed with the level of play that they saw from Johnson during training camp before he suffered his injury. He was initially feared to have suffered a more serious injury that would cost him significant time, as was Wilson.
“I think we all saw it prior to his injury, he is a savvy player, and he is not very old but he has some reps, you know he has some pelts on the wall”, Stefanski said of Johnson. “I think he was able to make some plays and we will be excited when we do get him back out there”.
While they have been back out on the practice field, however, that doesn’t mean all of them will end up being declared ready to play when they face the Washington Football Team in Week Three. But the fact that they are able to be out there shows that they are close to a return.