The Cleveland Browns caught a break on Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals when wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was ruled out of the game with a hip injury.
Denied the security blanket of being able to “throw the ball up and hope Chase makes a play,” Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow found the going rough against a Cleveland defense that limited him to just 232 passing yards and notched five sacks while pitching a shutout through the first three quarters of the game.
Martin Emerson vs Tee Higgins— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) November 1, 2022
2 receptions allowed (8 yards)
0 first downs
The Browns rookie CB put the CLAMPS on one of the Bengals elite WR’s pic.twitter.com/tbLL1K1tXW
Even without Chase on the field, the Bengals thought they could exploit a Browns secondary that was missing starting cornerback Denzel Ward, but rookie cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. put that notion to rest with a performance that earned him a spot on Pro Football Focus’ Top 15 highest-graded rookies in Week 8.
Emerson came in at No. 8 on the list with an overall grade of 74.5 on a night where Burrow tried his best to exploit the rookie:
The Cincinnati Bengals tried to pick on Emerson for most of the night, but they mostly came up empty-handed. He was targeted 10 times and didn’t allow a single first down on the day. The seven catches he allowed went for a total of 27 yards.
It was a nice bounce-back game for Emerson against a divisional opponent as his two lowest-rated games of the season came in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers (an overall grade of 56.8 and a coverage grade of 56.7) and in Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens (overall grade of 60.2 and a coverage grade of 57.1).
Outside of those two games, Emerson has been solid in coverage as he has earned a grade of 70-plus from PFF in five of the other six games he has played this season.
Leaders in receiving yards after Week 8 pic.twitter.com/TsKuvI5MBy— PFF (@PFF) November 1, 2022
The Browns are going to need Emerson to keep playing the way he did against the Bengals given that Ward is still dealing with a concussion that has kept him out of three consecutive games, and because of some of the matchups upcoming on the schedule, most notably the first two games after the bye week which are road contests against the Miami Dolphins, with wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, and the following week against the Buffalo Bills, with quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
There are also the rematches with the Ravens and Steelers, where Emerson will have an opportunity to erase those early miscues, and the Bengals, where Burrow and Chase will be waiting.
Emerson is at No. 17 overall out of 110 cornerbacks ranked by PFF with an overall grade of 76.2, easily the best among the five Cleveland cornerbacks ranked by the site. The others are Greg Newsome II at No. 42 with a grade of 66.3, Greedy Williams with a grade of 56.6 and A.J. Green with a grade of 46.5, neither of whom have played enough snaps to quality for the rankings, and Denzel Ward at No. 105 with a grade of 39.8.