Emmanuel Ogbah could only watch from afar as the Browns wrapped up their first winless season in franchise history.
That’s the most the defensive end was able to do after a season-ending foot surgery in November cut a promising second year short. It also left a young Cleveland team without one of its best defenders.
“It’s definitely been rough,” Ogbah said last week. “I catch myself yelling at the TV because there's nothing I can do.”
Indeed, Ogbah appeared to be on the cusp of a breakout campaign in his second NFL season. A second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ogbah recorded what was then a team-high four sacks (including two against Detroit in his second-to-last game), two forced fumbles and played a crucial role in a much-improved run defense. Without him, Cleveland struggled to mount a consistent pass rush outside of fellow defensive end Myles Garrett and the run defense — which finished as the league’s sixth-best unit — needed a brief period to adjust to his absence.
“I really don’t think enough is being said about how far and how well Emmanuel is doing,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said days before Ogbah’s injury. “I think he’ll be better and better and better. I don’t think he’s even come close to how good he could be yet.”
Ogbah, who met with news reporters last week for the first time since surgery, was one of several starting defenders — a list that includes linebacker Jamie Collins and safety Derrick Kindred — to suffer season-ending injuries. He admitted his setback was a frustrating blow both personally and for a unit that couldn't seem to stay healthy.
But Ogbah — who believes he’ll be healthy by the time OTAs start this spring — took careful notice how his teammates stepped up without him. Their fight, he said, was an encouraging thing to watch as the Browns hope to put this season behind them.
“Guys stepped up, they all stepped up,” he said. “I just can't wait to get back out there.”