The 2023 season for the Cleveland Browns is teetering at the halfway point with eight games completed out of the 17-game schedule. (Editor’s Note: Very annoying that the 17-game schedule robs us of clean quarter/halfway points.)
This would be a great time to reflect on how the offense, defense, and special teams are doing so far this season. What is better than reviewing which players have impacted the most on this roster so far?
Best Offensive Player
WR Amari Cooper
Coop has become the focus of most games and has come through numerous times. With RB Nick Chubb gone for the year, the health issues of QB Deshaun Watson, the roller coast season for TE David Njoku, and issues along the offensive line, there doesn’t seem to be that league stud this year on this squad.
Already this season, Cooper has gained 617 yards for the season on 35 receptions along with two touchdowns. But his core value is on second and third-down plays with longer yardage to gain. So far this season he has grabbed 25 passes for first downs and is an excellent route runner.
His catch radius is wide while his ability to judge the flight of the ball and jump at the correct moment to meet the ball’s flight is amazing. The Browns have started three quarterbacks this year, and all three have relied on Cooper’s hands and the ability to get into open space. His best game this year arguably was the contest against the Arizona Cardinals in which he netted 139 yards with a lone touchdown. He had two long pass receptions in that game which broke open the offense’s inability to sustain good drives at that point.
For his career, Cooper has four Pro Bowls and has eclipsed the 1,000-yard threshold six times. He is certainly on track to have his best season yet with nine games remaining.
Best Defensive Player
DE Myles Garrett
The defense this year has been outstanding with numerous names thrown into the hat for this distinction. However, was there any question about who sits atop this mountain of talent? DT Dalvin Tomlinson, S Grant Delpit, DT Maurice Hurst, and CB Denzel Ward are all having fine seasons. Cleveland should place many names from this group on the Pro Bowl ballot.
Myles Garrett is a freakazoid pic.twitter.com/iaI8veNG66— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 22, 2023
Garrett has dominated several games including his masterpiece against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7. In that contest, he blocked a field goal attempt, and had nine tackles, two sacks, two QB hits, two forced fumbles, one batted pass, and one tackle for loss. In addition to that freakish display of athleticism on that blocked field goal, two Garrett strip-sacks were directly responsible for 14 Browns points in the team’s 39-38 victory. For his efforts, he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
It is true in some games Garrett is invisible, but then suddenly has a play that is highlight reel material. This occurred in the Seahawks’ loss where he had only two tackles and then contributed a magnificent sack in the second half that shook the building.
His 9.5 sacks this year in just eight games is an indicator of how valuable he is to a defensive unit that is leading the league in so many categories. He is tied for second in total sacks with T.J. Watt and Maxx Crosby behind the leader Danielle Hunter (10).
These are all super impressive, obviously, but the third one always makes me chuckle— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) November 6, 2023
Myles Garrett pic.twitter.com/9f5jpykx9k
For the year, Garrett has 25 total tackles, 22 pressures, 10 knockdowns, 18 QB hits, two hurries, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two batted passes, eight tackles for loss, and just one missed tackle. Garrett is in the mix for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. His four forced fumbles lead the league.
In the last game against the Cardinals, Garrett’s Pro Football Focus grades were as follows:
Pass Rush: 90.0
Run Defense: 61.4
Best Special Teams Player
K Dustin Hopkins
There are quite a few players who might be nominated and selected for this category. The punt coverage team with D’Anthony Bell, Mike Ford, Tony Fields, and Cameron Mitchell are having a banner year. Long-snapper Charley Hughlett is one of those players that you never hear about unless he screws up, but should be a Pro Bowl candidate. And punter Corey Bojorquez has had some very good games including a 58.6 average yards per punt against Arizona.
But Hopkins is the standout here. He is Number 1 in the league in field goals converted (20) and attempted field goals (23) which says that the Browns’ offense stalls out quite a bit, but also his head coach has faith in his abilities to score points. He has an 87% completion ratio.
Hopkins is #1 in field goal attempts of over 50 yards (7) and ranks #1 in field goal attempts made of 50+ yards with seven for a 100% average at this distance. He is perfect in point-after-attempts going 13-13 and has a touchback percentage of 65.1% on kickoffs.
Often, his points scored are either the difference in the game or he accounts for the majority of the scoring. He has two AFC Special Teams Player of the Week awards already and kicked three field goals from 50+ in the loss against the Seattle Seahawks.
OT Dawand Jones
The Ohio State product was presumed to be a second-round pick yet fell to the Browns in the fourth round. With an early out by RT Jack Conklin with yet another injury, despite players such as James Hudson and Michael Dunn being roster members longer, it was Jones who heard his name called to fill the void and hasn’t looked back since.
His size is such an asset in that his arms are forever long and every defensive end with speed who has taken the big man on has taken the strategy of simply getting that first step and then speed-dialing the rookie around the edge. Except Jones has a great first step himself and is able to keep up his steps with the faster defenders. Tackles must possess great feet, and Jones does not disappoint in this aspect of play.
If Jones can stay relatively healthy which has been a slight issue, he will definitely find a starting position next year at either tackle spot which displays his talent level despite being in his first year in the NFL. This is truly a remarkable feat not only for a first-year player, but a first-year player who plays offensive tackle.
Jones has been battle-tested and shined right away. In his first start, he was paired against T.J. Watt of the Steelers who is already in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. And despite Watt having a good game against the Browns in Week 2, it was not against Jones where he found his success but on stunts and when the passing play took too long and blocks began to crumble.
Best New Player
DE Ogbo Okoronkwo
The former Houston Texans star has gradually improved each week and has been given more snaps despite Garrett and DE Za’Darius Smith getting all the starts.
But #54 is quietly having a very good season. There are others, especially along the defensive line who have had spotted success, but Ogbo has been consistent in most of the eight games played this season.
He is tied with the third most sacks (2.5) and has the third most tackles for loss (7) behind Garrett and JOK. He is also tied for the most fumble recoveries on the roster.
Ogbo has a love for the sport of football and it shows. He had shown some glimpses of being a superb pass rusher while with the Houston Texans but now under the direction of DC Jim Schwartz, he is part of an amazing defensive front that subs in fresh legs on a regular basis. He has zero starts this year, but that is okay with him. He has been on the field for 57.86% of defensive snaps which seem to increase for each game.
And Ogbo is a sure tackler having missed only one attempt this season. He has seven pressures, two knockdowns, two hurries, 17 total tackles, and five QB hits.
In the last game against the Cardinals, Ogbo’s Pro Football Focus grades were as follows:
Pass Rush: 72.2
Run Defense: 76.2
Comeback Player of the Year
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
With a foot injury last season that landed him on IR along with three other linebackers, JOK has been the heart of this defense this season. He reads the run pretty quickly and fills the gap he assumes the runner will appear. JOK is a good tackler and has been the juice this defense has needed. In his first two seasons, there have been flashes of what he should become at this level.
During the off-season, there were assumptions that JOK did not have the size nor girth to remain at linebacker and might be better suited for the safety position if he did not bulk up. He also missed a lot of tackles and has not progressed as many felt he should after being taken in the second round as the Butkus Award winner out of Notre Dame.
But Schwartz has a knack for identifying what each player’s strengths are, and then allowing them to go out and perform those traits. As a rookie, JOK had a missed tackle rate of 17.4% and last year that number dropped a bit to 14.9%. Already this season, that number is now at 7.1% under the system Schwartz has set up.
JOK is also on track to have 40-45 run stops by the end of the season which would become a career high for the talented linebacker. He came to the Browns as a read-and-react guy who is then allowed to go make plays but was regulated to more coverage in the past two years. Now, Schwartz has given him the green light to go after the ball carrier.
And the position of linebacker has always been that the defensive line must protect their backers. That hasn’t been the case until Schwartz landed in Cleveland. Now, the D-Line are plugging their gaps which allow the linebackers to see where the football is and go after it.
It now appears that JOK is evolving into the player the Browns saw when they drafted him as a defensive demon on the prowl. So far, he is proving the naysayers wrong about his size and instead is using his speed to hunt down ball carriers. He is just built differently and is finally getting some much-needed recognition. Currently, JOK is second on the team in tackles with 38.
Player Most Likely to Earn His First Pro Bowl
S Grant Delpit
After beginning the 2022 campaign as a player who had tackling and coverage issues, Delpit has become a defensive catalyst on a great unit.
Delpit changed his tackling style during the bye week last year which was based on tackling high or simply jumping on a ball carrier’s shoulder pads and then catching a ride. He now tackles low and is able to take out the player’s legs. He is currently listed as the Browns’ leading tackler.
Schwartz uses Delpit more as a hybrid either as a linebacker or at box safety. The results have been outstanding for both the player and the defensive unit as a whole.
defense was fired up on that first drive pic.twitter.com/H0PqCddPjT— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 5, 2023
In addition to his 53 total tackles, for the year Delpit has a half-sack, one hurry, one knockdown, three pressures, two QB hits, three tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one defensive touchdown, two batted passes, and one interception. Two games this year he was the leading tackler.
In the last game against the Cardinals, Delpit’s Pro Football Focus grades were as follows:
Run Defense: 71.4