With a 1-1 record, the Cleveland Browns could be at a crossroads, especially coming off their embarrassing loss to the New York Jets in Week 2 in which they blew a 13-point lead in the final two minutes.
They will face their bitter AFC North rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on Thursday at FirstEnergy Stadium, and it will be a critical contest, if for no other reason than bragging rights.
Unfortunately, Cleveland will be without one of the most important members of its front seven, as Jadeveon Clowney has been ruled out of the contest.
He suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter of the Jets game, and the short turnaround time certainly didn’t help him recover enough to be able to play this week.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 21, 2022
Clowney Has Been Playing Well For The Browns
It’s a small sample space, but Cleveland’s pass defense has been very poor to start the season, as it ranks just 25th in passing yards and touchdowns allowed.
The last two touchdowns the Jets scored in crunch time to defeat it on Sunday no doubt highlighted the deficiencies the team has right now in that category.
However, Clowney has looked good so far this season.
In two contests, he has posted 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, two passes defended and one quarterback hit.
Jadeveon Clowney with the strip sack AND fumble recovery! #Browns
— NFL (@NFL) September 18, 2022
According to Pro Football Focus’ rating system, the defensive end has ranked very favorably among his peers in several categories.
Jadeveon Clowney this season:
🟠 89.2 PFF grade (9th among EDGEs)
🟤 89.7 pass rush grade (5th)
🟠 1.5 sacks
🟤 6 pressures
🟠 2 batted passes
🟤 1 FF, 1 FR pic.twitter.com/pxo6Q6Un6T
— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) September 20, 2022
For a period of time during the offseason, it looked like the Browns were about to lose him in free agency.
After flirting with at least one other offer, he decided to re-up with Cleveland, and he admitted that he did so because he wanted to win a Super Bowl.
The Future Is Still Bright For The Browns And Their Defense
The Browns are in a rough period right now, as they are faced with the monumental task of treading water while Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson serves his 11-game suspension.
Interim QB1 Jacoby Brissett played solid ball against New York, completing 22 of 27 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown pass, but he won’t exactly be a candidate for the Pro Bowl himself anytime soon.
But once Watson returns and builds chemistry with his new teammates, Cleveland could have the makings of a team that could contend for the Super Bowl not too long from now.
Executive Andrew Berry has drafted very well in recent years, and it has resulted in a defense filled with young, impact players who are only getting better.
Jadeveon’s partner in crime, Myles Garrett, continues to be one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers, while second-year linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has put up strong numbers so far this year.
In the secondary, there is plenty of hope for safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Greg Newsome II.
The true potential of this squad likely won’t be seen until next season whenever everyone is together for an entire year, but there are plenty of reasons for Browns fans to be hopeful right now.