Browns Week 9 vs. Cardinals: Summary Report and Player Game Balls

November 7, 2023

Tony Camino

Browns Reflections: A Look Back at the Browns Victory over the Cardinals

1 – What is the confidence level in Deshaun Watson after Week 9?

After a long absence due to his rotator cuff injury, Deshaun Watson finally returned to action on Sunday in full capacity. This was his first full game since September 24th, and he had his ups and downs early on. Some of the shorter and intermediate throws weren’t perfect, and his footwork sometimes seemed to slip, causing throws to be more errant than they should be.

Overall, Watson finished the game 19-of-30 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he didn’t have any turnover-worthy plays according to PFF, and he allowed just one of the 13 pressures allowed to turn into a sack. Two of his throws were graded as “big-time throws” according to PFF, and he registered his lowest bad throw percentage of the season at just 17.9%.

While it wasn’t a complete masterpiece from Watson, there were plenty of moments in this game that showed exactly why the Browns invested heavily to acquire him. The 59-yard completion and 49-yard completion late in the game both showcased his elite talent and football knowledge, making throws and reads that only a handful of quarterbacks can make.

The flashes of brilliance are certainly there with him, and this was a great chance to get him some reps before big divisional games. The last two times we’ve seen Watson healthy, he’s turned in two of his best performances as a Brown. He seems to be getting more comfortable in the offense and regaining confidence. The connection between him and Amari Cooper is dangerous, and I’m confident in him maintaining an above-average level of play for the rest of the season.

2 – Is There a Legitimate Concern With Offensive Line Depth?

Perhaps the only bad news in the Week 9 win was the injury to left tackle Jedrick Wills. The former first-round pick is expected to land on IR after leaving the win with an MCL injury. The belief as of now is that he will return at some point this year, but he is likely lost for the next four to six weeks.

While Wills hasn’t consistently played up to the level of his draft status, he has been solid and improving seemingly every week this season. He hasn’t been one of the league’s best at left tackle, and it’s not a season-altering loss, but it will be much more challenging to right the ship without him. Losing both starting tackles for a significant period of time is never a recipe for success. Luckily, Dawand Jones has stepped right in and played high-level football at right tackle, but the Browns now have to find a solution opposite him.

James Hudson replaced Wills once he left with an injury, playing 34 snaps at left tackle and allowing two pressures. The former fourth-round pick out of Cincinnati has struggled in his limited playing time but has a chance to earn a real spot in this unit with solid performances in the next few weeks. Regardless, the drop-off from Wills to Hudson is one that will get overlooked but will make the offense more challenging. In addition, Hudson was playing the role of an extra lineman in jumbo packages very well, and the Browns will need another body for that role after Ty Nsekhe tore his bicep in his only appearance against the Seahawks.

3 – Is Denzel Ward Playing At An All-Pro Level?

Denzel Ward recorded his second interception on Sunday, with both coming in the last three weeks. He’s allowed just a 24.2 passer rating when targeted in single coverage, and he has allowed a catch on just 23 of the 45 times he was targeted. According to his teammate Juan Thornhill on Monday, Ward is the best cornerback in the league.

The new scheme of Jim Schwartz has really allowed Ward to thrive in man’s defense and play with his natural instincts. He’s proven to be one of the best one-on-one defenders in football and has certainly made a strong case for being an All-Pro this year. While the pressure up front has been the engine that drives this defense, they couldn’t dominate without the lockdown coverage from Ward and the rest of the secondary.

The trio of cornerbacks has been a huge advantage for the Browns this year and allows Schwartz to run a man-heavy scheme and get after the quarterback with four rushers, as he loves to do. While Martin Emerson and Greg Newsome have been terrific as well, Ward has continued to play one of the hardest positions in the sport at the highest level and is a huge part of what this team is trying to do going forward.

4 – What’s The Feeling On The Defense Heading Into Ravens’ Week?

The defense had another dominant game on Sunday after a couple of weeks where they were susceptible to big plays. The 27-0 win over the Cardinals is as dominant a defensive performance as you’ll ever see, allowing just 58 total yards and recording the franchise’s first shutout since a blizzard against the Bills in 2007. The Cardinals averaged just 1.2 yards per play, turned the ball over three times, and allowed seven sacks in the historic outing.

Most notably, the Cardinals registered negative 25 rushing yards before contact in this game, showing just how badly the Browns controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the game. They registered the highest defensive success rate (87.5%) in the Next Gen Stats Era. While a lot of that is due to Clayton Tune starting at quarterback and the running back room being depleted, the Browns were nothing short of dominant in the win.

Going forward, the Browns are without a doubt a top-five defense in the NFL. Their weakness still lies in big plays that tend to come from miscommunications and bad run fits, but those are mental mistakes that should be able to be cleaned up. The Browns thrive at playing man coverage, but you cannot be one-dimensional against smart NFL offensive play-callers. I like the Browns to have a better showing this time against the Ravens, and their ability to play some zone defense will dictate just how good they can be.

Gameballs: The Entire Defense

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