ESPN AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley wrote a short post stating that the return of safety T.J. Ward to the Browns' starting lineup should provide a boost this season. Already deemed a "secret superstar" by Pro Football Focus a few weeks ago, here are some of the stats that Hensley was referring to, which were dug up by ESPN's Stats & Information department:
Browns Defense in 2011 (T.J. Ward)
|Opp 1st downs PG||17.3||20.4|
|Opp 3rd down pct||38.9||43.6|
|Opp Rush YPG||144.0||150.9|
|Opp Pass YPG||165.3||204.6|
|Opp Total YPG||309.3||355.5|
It's hard to attribute all of these categories to one defensive player. A variety of other factors, including other defensive players getting hurt, the opponents we were facing, the tempo of the games, etc. would have come into play. For the fun of it, let's assume that Ward did have a significant impact on the categories above, excluding points per game (isn't it nice to pick and choose?).
The biggest one that stands out is the pass defense category in terms of difference. With or without Ward, though, Cleveland still needed a lot of help at defending the run, particularly those one or two big runs that backs would break off at certain stretches of a game. The unique spin for Cleveland this year will be playing with the tandem of Ward and Eric Hagg, two guys who, to my knowledge, rarely, if ever, played together in 2011.