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Browns secondary is ready for their first postseason test


The Browns defensive backs are ready for their first postseason test on Saturday in Houston, as they will take on the Texans receivers for the second time this season. The Browns' available secondary has only one game of playoff experience combined.

CB Martin Emerson Jr., CB Greg Newsome II, S D'Anthony Bell and S Ronnie Hickman have three years or less experience in the league and have not played in a playoff game. Despite the inexperience, the defensive backs have been working all season for this moment to show they are the best secondary in football. 

CB Denzel Ward is the only player a part of the group that has played in the playoffs. In his lone playoff game, Ward had three tackles against the Chiefs in the divisional round of the 2020 season. 

The secondary doesn't plan on stopping being dominant in the postseason despite their experience. They are second in the league with 3,149 total passing yards allowed. They have allowed the fewest yards per catch with 5.9 and have given up the fewest number of passing first downs with 136 this season.

They will face off against an experienced Texans receiving group with a rookie quarterback. WR Noah Brown and WR Robert Woods have been in the league for seven and eleven years, respectively. 

Woods has played in six playoff games, caught 38 receptions for 410 yards, and scored a touchdown in his postseason career. This season, he has caught 40 passes for 426 yards and scored a touchdown in 11 starts. Brown has played in five playoff games and caught six passes for 58 yards. This season, he caught 33 passes for 567 yards and scored two touchdowns in seven starts.

Woods and Brown may have some experience, but the offensive stars from Texas lack it. WR Nico Collins and QB C.J. Stroud have never played in an NFL playoff game. This season, Collins has caught 80 passes for 1,297 receiving yards and scored eight touchdowns. Collins was held to four catches for 18 yards in Week 16 against the Browns. However, in Week 18 with a playoff appearance on the line, he had nine catches for 195 yards and scored a touchdown.

"Yeah, he's a real good receiver as well," Ward said. "Big receiver, got good hands, good routes. Probably his favorite target out there. So, they definitely got that connection out there that we're going to have to lock on to and try to eliminate those guys."

The person throwing to Collins, Wood, and Brown is Stroud. He has had an exceptional first year in the league. Stroud has thrown for 4,108 yards, 23 touchdowns, and has a 63.9 completion percentage. Due to a concussion, he missed the Browns' Week 16 game, but he has since returned and played in Weeks 17 and 18.

"Obviously, he's a rookie, but he has a command that goes beyond usually the scope of a rookie," DC Jim Schwartz said. "Decisive with the ball, accurate passer, buys some time, makes big plays down the field. When it's all said and done, the fact that he's passed for as many yards as he has without turning the ball over is impressive for a young guy."

What's most impressive about Stroud's season is that he has thrown just five interceptions. He is the only quarterback to have thrown for over 2,500 yards this season with five or fewer interceptions. 

The young Browns secondary forced two interceptions in their Week 16 matchup, but that was against QB Case Keenum. The Browns have recorded 18 interceptions this season, which is third best in the league and are determined to maintain their high standards even in the playoffs. They do not believe their experience will show on Saturday at NRG Stadium.

"We know what we have in front of us and what our goals are," Emerson said. "I feel like our inexperience in the playoffs doesn't matter because of the team and the standard we built. We have been through everything. It's a playoff game and the biggest game of the year. We are the same team, and we are going to be us."

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