Browns notes: Defense aims to keep wave of turnovers going against Saints

DE Emmanuel Ogbah out, LB Christian Kirksey questionable at New Orleans

Daryl Ruiter
September 14, 2018 - 5:56 pm
Cleveland Browns linebacker Joe Schobert (53) recovers a fumble by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium

Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

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Berea, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The inability to create turnovers was just 1 of a multitude of reasons the Browns went winless last year.

After forcing just 16 takeaways in 2017, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams went into the 2018 season intent on changing that and it has already begun paying big dividends.

The Browns forced 6 turnovers in the Week 1 tie with Pittsburgh, but Williams wanted and felt like they should’ve had more.

“I was not satisfied because we touched three other ones we should have had, and they were three simple other ones,” Williams said Friday. “They made some difficult plays, though. Some of the ones they did not make were pretty rare on what they did. That is a huge part of our improvement for this year. It has been a point of emphasis since I got here last year. At times last year, we were allergic to them. Now, we have been on a roll doing that.

“We have to continue to do that to be a top defense in the league, and help our offense, help this team.”

Linebacker Joe Schobert recovered 2 of the 3 fumbles forced against the Steelers.

“A lot times people say sacks are contagious, they come in bunches. I think takeaways are similar,” Schobert said.

“We’ve been getting a lot and if we can keep getting a lot that will be perfectly alright, but it’s something we’ve worked on hard this offseason, and hopefully we continue to do and going against a great offense like this this week will be a great test for that.”

In the preseason the starting unit created 4 turnovers against the Philadelphia Eagles and Sunday they’re looking to do more damage this week in New Orleans.

“We had a hell of a game as a defense – 6 turnovers and stuff like that – but we know we can do better,” defensive end Chris Smith said. “There’s still plays we left out there. We can do better and we can build off of last week.”

Kirko questionable – An ankle and shoulder injury could keep linebacker Christian Kirksey off the field Sunday.

Jackson admitted that the short week against the Jets that awaits their return from New Orleans could impact whether Kirksey plays.  

“We will see,” head coach Hue Jackson said Friday after practice. “I want to work through that the right way because we have another game that is really close. Let’s see exactly where he is and let’s make the right decision for him, the team and everybody.”

Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah was ruled out Friday meaning Smith will likely get the start in his place.

Returning Peppers – Look for Jabrill Peppers to continue to return punts and kickoffs as Jackson prefers to go with experience over youth.

“Obviously, he came into the game and fielded a kickoff when Jabrill needed a break,” special teams coordinator Amos Jones said. “You kind of have to trust the process with young guys. You kind of have to expect that from them. Jabrill has a year under his belt with this. Coach made that decision. Obviously, we are going to stick behind it as coaches. We are going to do what the hell we are told.”

Peppers returned 1 punt for 15 yards and fair caught 3 others while adding a 24-yard kickoff return in Week 1 while Callaway’s only kick return netted 8 yards to the 11-yard line.

“The biggest thing is it is just going to be a learning curve,” Jones said. “You are talking about a guy that is still a year out of football, and the nuances of the game and particularly this league. Now, the time that he was in, there was a bad ball that he did get a chance to catch. Once a guy like that gets a spark, gets a ball and grass in front of him, I think that you might see the type of player that we know he is.”

Major award – Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward was voted the Pepsi NFL rookie of the week.

Ward’s 2 interception performance against the Steelers earned him enough votes to beat out Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, Giants running back Saquon Barkley, Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes and Broncos running back Phillip Lindsey.

Ward also broke up 3 passes and made 6 tackles in the tie.  

“I do get amazed just watching him play, not the interceptions but just him throwing his body around in there trying to tackle and making tackles,” Jackson said. “He does not shy away from anything. He is very even-keeled when you talk to him. He does not get too down. He does not get too high. He did a really good job last week. He has to play better again this week.”

After drawing Antonio Brown for most of Week 1, life doesn’t get any easier against former Buckeye wideout Michael Thomas this week.

“I went against receivers like him in college and I will in the league so the size does not really make a difference to me,” Ward said. “It does not really matter who I go against so I am looking forward to that matchup.”

Injury report – Out: DE Emmanuel Ogbah (ankle)

Questionable: LB Christian Kirksey (shoulder/ankle),

Expected to play: CB E.J. Gaines (knee), LB James Burgess (concussion), LT Desmond Harrison (shoulder), WR Jarvis Landry (thigh), S Damarious Randall (head/neck)