Denver Broncos injury report: Denzel Ward out for Browns
The Denver Broncos have a huge matchup this week against the Cleveland Browns, who will be without star rookie Denzel Ward at cornerback.
The Denver Broncos have to find a way to rebound from their unfortunate loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, and they have to do it against rookie phenom Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns had the luxury of two picks in the top four of the 2018 NFL Draft, and with the fourth overall pick, they surprised a lot of people by selecting Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward.
Ward was not as highly rated by NFL Draft analysts as defensive end Bradley Chubb, who went one pick later to the Denver Broncos.
Despite the fact that he wasn’t rated as highly in the pre-draft process, Ward has had a great rookie season for the Browns and has been their best player in coverage all season. Unfortunately for the Browns, Ward is going to miss Saturday’s game against the Broncos with a concussion.
That injury is a massive blow to the Browns’ defense, which already ranks 31st in the league in yards allowed. Despite giving up a lot of yardage through the air, the Browns have been very stingy when it comes to giving up passing touchdowns. They’ve allowed just 19 passing touchdowns in 13 games (7th best in the NFL) and have 15 interceptions (3rd best in the NFL).
The loss of Ward is nothing anyone wants to see, regardless of how it helps the Broncos in this matchup, but given the fact that he’s not playing, the Broncos have to find ways to exploit the Browns in the passing game.
Ward’s numbers this season are not far off of Broncos star cornerback Chris Harris Jr.’s. Though Ward has allowed four touchdowns this season compared to just one for Harris, each player has three interceptions and is allowing less than a yard per cover snap (Harris at 0.84, Ward at 0.85, per Pro Football Focus).
Ward has also allowed a quarterback rating of 70.0 on throws into his coverage. That’s the eighth-best mark in the league this season.
The Browns’ defensive success this year has been largely because of Ward and how he fits Gregg Williams’ aggressive defense. The Broncos’ passing attack was stifled against the 49ers who managed to get a lot of interior pressure and weren’t able to get the ball downfield. As a matter of fact, Case Keenum averaged a pitiful 4.4 yards per pass attempt.
That number has to be considerably larger against the Browns on Saturday night and not having to face Ward is a huge advantage in the Broncos’ favor.
For the Broncos, outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., and rookie cornerback Isaac Yiadom are out against the Browns. Derek Wolfe is listed as questionable but is expected to play, as is linebacker Brandon Marshall, who is expected to play in sub-packages.
The Browns will also be without rookie tackle Austin Corbett, and center JC Tretter was limited on Thursday after getting the DNP tag the first two days of practice with an ankle injury.