The Browns secondary received a Pro Bowl-caliber boost to its group Wednesday for its first practice of Week 15.
Denzel Ward returned to the practice field for the first time since suffering a calf injury in Week 11 and will be monitored throughout the week as the Browns prepare for a Sunday primetime matchup against the New York Giants. Ward, who is tied for fourth in the NFL with 15 passes defensed, had missed the previous two games.
"We will see where Denzel is throughout this week," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "We will take that day by day."
The Browns defense allowed 523 yards in the two games since Ward's injury, including 154 passing yards in Monday's night's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The secondary has always been better with Ward, who has registered several game-changing plays — he also has two interceptions and one forced fumble — in big moments this season.
Ward has been building a career-best season and has done it despite the absence of cornerback Greedy Williams, who has been out with a shoulder injury since training camp, and safety Grant Delpit, a 2020 second-round pick who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in training camp. Ward has been the anchor of the secondary all season, and his presence should give the Browns a needed defensive boost as they continue to hunt for a playoff spot.
"Our expectations regardless of who is out there really do not change," Stefanski said. "The guys had to step up in his absence. Guys are playing different positions for us, and that is what is required. If Denzel is able to make it back, obviously, that would be a big boost to our team."
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Baltimore Ravens yesterday by the Browns photo team
Browns Prep for Both Giants QBs
The Giants aren't sure who will line up under center Sunday, but that won't change how the Browns are tackling game preparations for the Giants' offense.
Giants coach Joe Judge said Wednesday quarterback Daniel Jones, who has been playing through a hamstring injury in Week 12, is dealing with another lower leg injury suffered Sunday. Jones was practicing Wednesday, however, and will have a decision made on his game status at a later time.
"I'm going to give him an opportunity this week to work through practice and see how he moves and how he reacts to things," Judge said. "If he's not at risk beyond any normal game, then we'll go ahead and give him the opportunity to play."
If Jones, who didn't record a rushing attempt for the first time in his career last week, isn't ready to go, then the Giants likely will turn to 10-year veteran quarterback Colt McCoy, who has played in three games this season and has gone 21-of-35 with one touchdown and an interception.
The Browns, though, will be ready for either quarterback. There's other weapons on the Giants' offense, too — running back Wayne Gallman has emerged as a reliable playmaker in recent weeks, while receivers Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate can make big plays no matter the quarterback.
"You have to go into it and study both (quarterbacks) and understand their strengths and things that they may lean on depending on who is in there," Stefanski said. "That happens over the course of the season."
The big injury news of the day was the return of Ward, but two Browns players were still absent from Wednesday's practice: safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) and right guard Wyatt Teller (ankle). Stefanski was unsure whether either player would be available for Week 15.
Tight end Austin Hooper, who was inactive Sunday versus the Ravens with a neck injury, also returned to practice Wednesday and was listed as a limited participant.