Grant Delpit saw exactly what every safety dreams of seeing on two of the biggest defensive plays in Sunday's 24-10 Browns win over the Commanders.
On a third-and-6 play in the second quarter, Delpit, a third-year safety, was manning the deep-third of the Browns' defense and began to move toward Commanders WR Curtis Samuel when he looked into the blue sky above FedEx Field and spotted an underthrown ball. He dove across the burgundy "W" Commanders logo at midfield as he brought the pass to his chest for interception No. 3 on the season — and the Browns' second INT off QB Carson Wentz in the first half.
Later in the fourth quarter, Delpit saw another ball floating in the sky.
This time, the pass from Wentz was intended to WR Jahan Dotson and thrown into double-coverage. Delpit and CB M.J. Emerson Jr. were ready to snag it, and Delpit was the one who jumped in the air first and corralled the ball.
For Delpit, the answer to what he saw on the plays was easy.
"The ball hanging in the air," he said. "He kind of just hung it up for me. I was just trying to make a play, and I was able to get it."
Check out photos of Grant Delpit during his big game against the Commanders where he snagged two interceptions, his most in a game in his career.
Delpit has delivered several key plays for the Browns in recent weeks and has elevated his game despite the Browns no longer being in playoff contention. His two interceptions in Week 17 gave him three picks in the last two games, which have catapulted him into the team lead in interceptions.
With one game left, Delpit has already set career highs in interceptions (4), pass breakups (10), tackles (103) and tackles for a loss (4). After a slow start to the season where the defense struggled to eliminate chunk plays and find consistency in stopping both the run and pass game, it's poised to finish the season on a strong note — it hasn't allowed opponents to score 23 or more points in the last six games.
Delpit's big plays have been a key part of the turnaround. The Browns have 11 takeaways in the last five games, and three of them have come from Delpit, who's also tallied five pass breakups in the last six games.
"I think he's playing at a high level," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Obviously, getting his hands on those balls. The one in the end zone, that is a very difficult play. That is a high degree of difficulty to track that ball and get your feet down. He's tackling well. I think he has a ton of tackles just on the season. You're right: He's playing well."
Delpit, 24, is putting a stamp of improvement on his third season in the NFL and growing into the player the Browns envisioned he could become when they drafted him in the second round out of LSU in 2020.
This is Delpit's third season, but it's felt more like his second due to the season-ending Achilles injury he suffered in training camp in 2020 as a rookie. Delpit didn't take the field at all that year, but he returned to play 15 games last season and showed glimpses of his potential with one interception and three pass breakups.
The Browns, though, needed more from Delpit in 2022 for the defense to reach its full potential. After an interception in Week 1, Delpit went 13 games without an interception but still found ways to knock down six passes. There were good moments, but also plays Delpit and the rest of the defense would've liked to have back — such as the blown coverage that led to the first of two touchdowns in the final 93 seconds of the Jets' improbable 31-30 comeback win in Week 2.
Now, the big plays have started to come more consistently for the group, and Delpit has been the catalyst of a handful of them.
Asked if he's hitting his stride this season, Delpit said, "Yeah, I guess you could say that," but also noted that it's been "a whole defensive effort, and shout out to the rest of the guys."
Stefanski has noticed Delpit evolving into a more complete player, and the Browns haven't hesitated in using Delpit in a full-time role in his third season. He's missed just three snaps all year.
"Like young players, he is playing well with more opportunities," Stefanski said. "I think that is really the nature of young rookies and second-year players. I know Grant is in his third year, but these young guys when they get more opportunities, they learn from them. I think their play improves throughout the season."
Delpit could end the year with an even louder bang if he's able to make another game-changing play or two against the Steelers and QB Kenny Pickett, who's orchestrated two game-winning drives in the last two games to keep Pittsburgh in playoff contention.
The Browns can close the Steelers' playoff chances with a win, which would also complete their first series-sweep of Pittsburgh since 1988.
Delpit believes the game is a chance for the defense to show they're as talented as they believed they were before the season, and after proving to himself in the last two weeks that he's taken big strides in his game, he's ready to help the whole unit achieve the same realization.
"We're trying to prove who we are to ourselves," he said. "This year hasn't gone how we want it to go, but we can still end the year on a high note. Anything we need to do to do that we're going to do it. Move onto next week and handle business."