Myles Garrett believes the Browns defense will get a huge boost from the return of CB Denzel Ward on Sunday in Miami.
"He's coming in with fresh legs," Garrett said. "Being able to come back with his wind, his stamina and his mental state of mind and physical fit, you can't ask for better.
"I think he's primed for a big game."
The Browns could certainly use one from Ward, who will play his first game Sunday since Week 5. He's been sidelined due to a concussion but will return for a big matchup between the Browns' secondary and Dolphins' top-tier pass game in Week 10.
Cleveland must contain WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who have teamed up to create one of the top receiving tandems in the league this season. The Browns, however, will be able to deploy a full-strength secondary — no one in either the cornerback or safety room is dealing with an injury, and they're in much better shape to face Hill and Waddle with Ward, a 2021 Pro Bowler, back in the mix.
"He's one of the top corners in the game still," Greg Newsome II said. "Obviously, having a talent like that on the field is always going to make everyone's job a lot easier. It's definitely great to have him back."
With a full-strength secondary, the Browns will look to seal passing options for QB Tua Tagovailoa and generate heavy pressure, which has proven to be a tough task for defenses this season. Tagovailoa has only been sacked eight times in seven games, which is tied for 34th among QBs.
"We'll see what I have to do to get free and make sure they don't know where I'm at," Garrett said.
Garrett believes having Ward back will help buy him a bit more time to chase Tagovailoa.
"He's a top 3, top 5 (cornerback), wherever you want to put him," he said.
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Miami Dolphins
Emerson continues to impress
Rookie CB M.J. Emerson Jr. was heavily leaned on to fill the void when Ward was absent, and his role might not shrink too much even though Ward has returned.
Emerson shined with his elevated snaps, picking up four pass breakups and providing stable coverage while playing nearly every defensive play the last three weeks. A third-round rookie, Emerson has impressed coaches with how quickly he's adjusted to NFL speed and already served as a key depth piece for the secondary.
"I think MJ has been really good going back to the spring," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I think he is a guy who you love his mentality and you love how he just goes out there and is physical, fights and doesn't back down. I think that's half the battle a lot of times with corners.
"He has the right mental makeup. I think all of these reps that he gets in games only serve him as he continues on his career. I think young players, they get to play early and sometimes guys play earlier than you want, not necessarily the case of M.J., but he's gotten a ton of really good reps that I believe you could build on."
Bye week beneficial for Garrett
Garrett said the bye week allowed him to make some more progress in his recovery from his shoulder injury that he suffered in his car accident in September.
"It did me some good," he said. "Feeling better. Feeling stronger. It's feeling like a little bit more security around my shoulder and being able to use it a little bit more."
Even though he wasn't 100 percent, Garrett has still been a force in the last four games, totaling 4.5 sacks and working his way back near the top of the league's sack leaderboard. He's currently sixth in the league and is four sacks behind New England's Matthew Judon for the lead.