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Notes: Jim Schwartz most proud of way defense played together in opener

BEREA — The impressive defensive stats were everywhere after the 24-3 opening win over the Bengals. The Browns held Cincinnati to six first downs, 2-for-15 (13.3 percent) on third down, 142 total yards, 82 yards passing and 2.6 yards per play.

Philosopher, motivator, coordinator Jim Schwartz looked elsewhere for satisfaction.

“The thing I was most proud of was the way the players played together and their spirit and the things that we’ve been talking about,” Schwartz said Friday. “You put the tape on and that stood out the most, not the efficiency or the run yards or the pass yards or any of those numbers. It went beyond numbers. And it’s what we’ve been pointing towards since Day 1 is to operate as a cohesive unit.

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“I have a stupid saying that our job as a defense is to find a way for one plus one to equal three, meaning that the sum needs to be greater than our individual parts. And I thought we did that.”

The Browns tried to overhaul the personnel and chemistry of the defense in the offseason. Schwartz was hired, tackles Dalvin Tomlinson and Shelby Harris, end Ogbo Okoronkwo and safety Juan Thornhill were signed as free agents and they traded for end Za’Darius Smith.

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Schwartz had an immediate impact, including charting “loafs” for when players don’t celebrate a good play by themselves or a teammate.

“We want to have energy,” Schwartz said. “And it’s easy when you play a game like we did. Sometimes it’s harder when you’re getting kicked in the teeth, but we still want to see that and we still want guys to play hard, play together, and we’re going to find ways to get that done. And if it means something silly like that, then mission accomplished.”

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Cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. described the identity of the defense.

“Passion, effort and swag. Three words I can break it down,” he said.

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“Just helping build on the camaraderie that we’ve been building on since training camp and getting everybody together,” cornerback Denzel Ward said. “It’s a game and having fun, so celebrating with your teammates, just enjoying the time out there and making plays.”

Schwartz’s teaching takes many forms.

“Our job is to inspire and motivate our players, and there’s a lot of different ways to do that,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a pat on the back. Sometimes it’s a bite in the a**. So I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to get our players ready to play and really to let the chips fall.”


Safety Grant Delpit wasn’t ready to call his performance against the Bengals the best of his four-year career, but Schwartz was.

“I’ve been watching Grant since college, watched pretty much his whole career. I thought that was probably the best game I’ve ever seen him play, including college,” he said. “Those safeties that can make everybody right, they can match up in man, did a great job with his disguise. Grant’s off to a great start and I’m excited for where he’ll go this year if he keeps it up. I’m really proud to coach a guy like Grant.”

Delpit led the team with eight tackles, one for loss, and added a quarterback hit and a pass defensed.

“I don’t know, maybe so far, maybe,” Delpit said when asked if it was his best game. “We didn’t come away with any takeaways or anything like that, but it was a pretty solid game for myself and as a defense as a whole, too, so we could build on that.”


Thornhill practiced for the first time in more than a week, a good sign as the Browns prepare to play the Steelers on Monday night.

Thornhill was limited after not practicing since Sept. 6 with a calf injury. He was inactive for the opener.

“It’s going to be scary, man,” Delpit said of the defense when Thornhill returns. “He’s got great ball skills. Smart guy. Two Super Bowl rings. We have a pretty deep room, so don’t be surprised.”

** Defensive tackles Shelby Harris (Achilles) and Maurice Hurst (hamstring) also returned to practice in a limited capacity after sitting out Thursday.

** Left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (foot) was limited for the second straight day.

** Rookie defensive tackle Siaki Ika (foot) was the only player who didn’t practice, missing his second straight day. He walked through the locker room before practice with a boot on his right foot.

** For the Steelers, receiver Diontae Johnson (hamstring), running back/kick returner Anthony McFarland Jr. (knee) and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (foot) didn’t practice. Right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (concussion) and right guard James Daniels (ankle) were limited.


Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt had high praise for quarterback Deshaun Watson when asked about his ability to diagnose the defense.

“Really good. He sees as well as anybody I’ve been around,” said Van Pelt, who was Aaron Rodgers’ quarterbacks coach with the Packers. “He could tell you exactly what happens on the play, where each defender was. He’ll see stuff that I might not catch on the sideline. That’s one of his strengths, his ability to see and read defenses.”

Left guard Joel Bitonio has seen Watson’s command of the offense take a leap in his second season with the team.

“We have a lot more checks in, we have a lot more different run-pass, pass-run options that we can pull out,” Bitonio said.


Bitonio is set to make his 100th straight regular-season start Monday night. He started every game as a rookie in 2014 before missing 17 over the next two seasons. The only game — and snaps — he’s missed since was the wild card playoff game in Pittsburgh in 2020 when he tested positive for COVID-19.

“That’s cool. I didn’t know about that one,” Bitonio said of the streak. “Anytime you go out there and play, it’s a blessing. And I know early in my career I felt like I was unlucky. So it is a lot of luck.

“But to be out there with the guys, anytime you get a chance to play is pretty special. It’ll definitely be something I can look at after the game and be like that’s pretty cool.”

** Receiver Amari Cooper has 598 catches but isn’t excited about hitting No. 600.

“If it meant that much to me, then I would’ve known that it was 598,” he said. “It’s just numbers. I just do my job.”


Dustin Hopkins made every kick in his Browns debut, converting 42-, 34- and 43-yard field goals and an extra point.

“It was a great start,” special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said. “He hit the ball well. Good elevation, good rotation on all of his kicks. The timing was good.”

** Cooper said he’s fine after slipping on the wet turf and temporarily exiting the game. He was a full participant Friday.

“Just bad footing, bad weather, just slipped and kind of tweaked something, but it’s all good now,” he said.

** La Mega Media will broadcast the games after starting a partnership with the team. Veteran NFL broadcaster Rafael “Rafa” Hernández-Brito will call the action along with analyst Octavio Sequera. The games can be heard on WNZN 89.1-FM in Lorain and streamed on La Mega Cleveland.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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