‘Terrifying’ twosome: Pro Bowlers Garrett, Ward lead Browns
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, December 19
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Myles Garrett interrupted linebacker Joe Schobert’s interview session and then took his place at the podium — shirtless.
Pro Bowlers can do whatever they want.
The former No. 1 overall pick earned his first — and probably not his last — Pro Bowl selection on Tuesday, a personal accomplishment the dominating defensive end said is merely the initial stage of his journey toward greatness.
“It’s nice,” he said. “Step one of many steps to come.”
“Step two? All-Pro,” he said. “Step three? Defensive player of the year. Step four, win it all.”
Closing in on Cleveland’s team record for sacks in a season, Garrett was acknowledged for his strong second season along with Browns rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, the No. 4 pick this year who has quickly become one of the game’s top players at a premium position.
While two of the Browns’ most unassuming, soft-spoken players, Garrett and Ward can be fearsome together.
“It can only get better with time. The sky is the limit for us on defense,” Garrett said. “I feel like the more time we have to grow and mesh together, we’ll be able to really terrify some quarterbacks.”
The pair work in concert as Garrett’s eye-popping quickness off the snap — he has 12½ sacks this season and 19½ in 25 games — can influence a quarterback to make a quick decision while Ward’s ability to cover some of the NFL’s top receivers makes QBs hang onto the ball, giving Cleveland’s linemen and blitzing linebackers more chances to get sacks.
The kind of 1-2 punch Garrett and Ward deliver can be devastating.
“Today’s NFL is a passing game, so to have a bookend defensive end who can get after the quarterback, get a lot of sacks or make him hurry throws and having a corner who can go and make plays on the balls when they’re in the air, it works hand in hand,” said Schobert, Cleveland’s lone Pro Bowler last season.
“If corners are shutting down the passing and the quarterback is holding it longer, you know Myles is going to get there. If Myles is pressuring the quarterback and he’s going to be forced to make some hurried throws, you know our secondary is going to be able to take advantage of it.
“You’ve seen that this season.”
And now that the Browns (6-7-1) are winning, they’re being rewarded.
Along with Garrett and Ward being voted as Pro Bowlers, Cleveland, which had several other players named alternates, including guard Joel Bitonio (first alternate), rookie running back Nick Chubb (second), punter Britton Colquitt (second), receiver Jarvis Landry (third), right guard Kevin Zeitler and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield (fourth).
Mayfield, who is more accustomed to winning bigger honors, was not impressed by his recognition.
“What am I? The fourth alternate?” Mayfield said with a playful smirk. “Until the other three get sick or do not want to play, I am not going in. No, it is not that good.”
For Ward, the Pro Bowl further validated his selection by Browns general manager John Dorsey, who raised some eyebrows when he snagged the former Ohio State standout so high. He had been expected to go later in the first round, but Dorsey saw something in Ward that quickly became apparent to his teammates.
Ward has three interceptions, 11 passes defensed, 48 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in 12 games. He returned to practice Wednesday after missing two games with a concussion.
“In the beginning of the year, people tried to test him early on,” Mayfield said. “But he made a lot of plays. Yeah, he has been a little banged up, but he has been that guy all year. People just are not testing him as much as they used to. They have seen that he is able to make plays. He is comfortable. I just think that where he is at in our defense, he is in the right spot at the right time because he is doing his job at a high level. He is instinctive, and he obviously makes plays.”
Ward credited his teammates with getting him the early accolades. But the humble 21-year-old didn’t want to take too much credit for Garrett’s success.
“I feel I helped him a little bit, just covering up guys,” he said. “Myles is already a freak of nature, so he’s going to do his job and get to the quarterback whether I was here or not.”
NOTES: With the Bengals coming to town, Mayfield said nothing has changed in his relationship with former Browns coach Hue Jackson. When the Browns won in Cincinnati last month, Mayfield gave Jackson a cold shoulder following the game and later called him “fake.” ”I said what I said. It is another week. We have to hit the reset button,” said Mayfield, who wouldn’t comment on whether he has reached out to Jackson since their previous meeting.
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Thursday, December 20
MLS expansion team in Cincinnati to open March 2 at Seattle
Expansion Cincinnati will play its first Major League Soccer match on March 2 at Seattle. It then faces Portland for its home opener at Nippert Stadium on March 17. Allianz Field in St. Paul, the new home of Minnesota United, opens April 13 with a game against the New York Red Bulls. The venue is the league’s 20th stadium built or renovated for soccer.
NEW YORK (AP) — Expansion Cincinnati will play its first Major League Soccer match on March 2 at Seattle, then faces Portland for its home opener at Nippert Stadium on March 17.
MLS announced home openers Thursday for all 24 teams Thursday.
Allianz Field in St. Paul, the new home of Minnesota United, opens April 13 with a game against the New York Red Bulls. The venue is the league’s 20th stadium built or renovated for soccer.
The season’s first day on March 2 also includes Toronto at Philadelphia, New York City at Orlando, the New York Red Bulls at Columbus, New England at Dallas, Salt Lake at Houston, Portland at Colorado, Minnesota at Vancouver, Chicago at the LA Galaxy and Montreal at San Jose.
Set for the following day are defending champion Atlanta at D.C. United and Kansas City at LA.
Home openers the following weekend include Orlando at Chicago, Columbus at New England and Vancouver at Salt Lake on March 9, and D.C. United at New York City, Philadelphia at Kansas City and Cincinnati at Atlanta on March 10.
San Jose is at the New York Red Bulls on March 16, and the following day has New England at Toronto. Montreal’s home opener is April 13 against Columbus.
Portland’s home opener is not until June 1 against LA. Providence Park is in the midst of a 4,000-seat expansion.
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(Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini, File)