Browns' depth on D-line, secondary shining brightly amid adversity

Jermaine Whitehead had his hands on all three of the Browns' turnovers Sunday. Chad Thomas pounced on the game-changing fumble Whitehead forced. Devaroe Lawrence snagged a deflected pass "like one of them bridesmaids trying to catch the bouquet."

The common denominator? None are considered traditional starters on the team's depth chart.

Sure, Whitehead played every snap in Sunday's win over the Ravens, but the others played less than half. Of the six turnovers Cleveland has forced in the last two games, five have involved players listed as second- or third-string on the team's official depth chart.

All of it is symbolic of how much Cleveland's defensive depth has proven itself over the past two weeks while coping with a rash of injuries across the roster.

"That's what we expect out of our guys," Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. "We don't care if they're backups or not three weeks ago – they're playing. They're good enough to play, so we expect them to play well. They expect that out of themselves, so why should we not expect that out of them? What are we doing? Are we putting somebody out there that we don't trust? No, hell, he's on the field, so we expect him to play well, you know?"

Check out the best photos from the Cleveland Browns win over the Baltimore Ravens yesterday by team photographer Matt Starkey

Cleveland's secondary has received the biggest test over the past two weeks. Against the Rams, all four starters -- Morgan Burnett, Damarious Randall, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams -- were sidelined with injuries. The group got one back, Randall, for the Ravens, but remained relatively short-handed.

It mattered little, as Whitehead, a regular contributor even when the group is at full strength, had his hands in all three of Sunday's turnovers, forcing a fumble, deflecting a pass and intercepting another. Randall picked up the first sack of his career, and veterans T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell played a big part in limiting Ravens wide receivers to less than 10 yards per reception while the game was still in balance.

"Every player in that secondary has games under their belt. There's no confidence issue with anyone out there," Whitehead said. "There's no doubt in our minds in those guys. We believe in all of those guys.

"We've got the young guys that start for us, and we're just giving them a chance to get healthy and some film to learn from. When they get back, we're going to be a great unit."

The one position group that's been spared of the injury bug is Cleveland's stout defensive line, but even that unit has shown how deep it runs.

With temperatures creeping into the 90s, the Browns on Sunday rotated their defensive linemen as frequently as they have all season. Starters Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi played 48 of a possible 69 snaps, the most for any defensive lineman. Backups Chris Smith (24), Lawrence (29), Daniel Ekuale (21) and Thomas (20) were entrusted during pivotal parts in the game against the dynamic Lamar Jackson and Baltimore's run-heavy offense.

They were more than up to the task, and that's what the Browns expect every time.

"All of these guys can play ball. If they couldn't, they wouldn't be here," Garrett said. "They stepped up because they've always had this ability. They were just waiting on the chance. These guys have played to the best of their ability and balled out."

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