It pained Emmanuel Ogbah to watch the Browns struggle down the stretch of their winless season without him.
The defensive end seemed to be on the cusp of a breakout campaign when he suffered a broken foot against the Jaguars in early November. It was a frustrating and deflating loss as Ogbah was amidst perhaps the best two-game stretch of his young career that afternoon against Jacksonville.
Now, as Cleveland nears the end of offseason workouts, however, the third-year player says he’s healthy and ready to take the next step in what appears to be a promising career.
“It definitely hurt when it happened. They got the X-Ray, and they told me how long that I would be out,” Ogbah said Tuesday following the team’s seventh OTA practice. “Definitely hurt seeing my teammates, watching them go through what they went through. I just couldn’t wait to get back out there. I’m ready to go.”
In 10 games last season, Ogbah registered 29 tackles, four sacks and six batted balls at the line of scrimmage. If there were a game this weekend, he believes he’d be ready to play. Head coach Hue Jackson, to be certain, said the coaching staff will gently work Ogbah back into the swing of things.
“We’re going to ease those guys back, but he is practicing and competing,” he said last week. “He was out there yesterday and is doing some really good things.”
That’s good news for a new-look Browns defense that is building chemistry in organized team activities. Over the past few months, Cleveland overhauled its defensive secondary, drafted former Ohio State star cornerback Denzel Ward with the No. 4 pick and expects returning starters like Myles Garrett (the former No. 1 overall pick and Ogbah’s edge rushing counterpart) and safety/former first-round pick Jabrill Peppers to take a step in their second NFL season.
Ogbah, a second-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2016, said he’s a “different type of player” entering his third year with the Browns. That, he said, simply comes with experience and learning the nuances of the professional ranks.
While he’s been a steady contributor for Cleveland thus far, he believes he’ll do more in 2018. “I’m not really reading like I used to be, I just go in this new defense that we have,” he said, pointing to a second year under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Also helping in Ogbah’s development is the addition of Garrett, who led the team with seven sacks in 11 games last season. The two have forged a friendship while bookending the Browns’ defensive line and hope to engage in something of a friendly competition next year.
“That’s my boy. We have a bond going on,” Ogbah said, smiling. “We make each other better. We complement each other in the pass and run game. He’s a great player. He will be a great player for a very long time in this league. We just complement each other.”
Ogbah, asked about expectations for 2018, said he wants to play a role in helping the Browns make that 2017 season feel like a distant memory.
“We all were brought in for a reason. We all have got to step up to the plate,” he said. “We all have to give the team a chance to win games. We went 0-16, nobody is looking at that anymore. It’s a new season, new time, new year.”
The same goes for Ogbah, who stands to pick up where he left off last fall.
“This is Year 3 for him, and I know that he’s chomping at the bit to get back out there,” Jackson said. “We have to pull him back a little bit because he is ready to go, but I anticipate him having a good season. In order to do that, he has to have a good remaining OTAs and a great offseason, and he has to come back for training camp locked, loaded and ready to go.”