BEREA — The Browns made Denver Broncos edge rusher Von Miller a happy man on April 26.
Instead of drafting North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb fourth overall, the Browns picked Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. Not only did the Broncos choose Chubb at No. 5, but they reportedly called off a trade down the board because he fell to them. ESPN reported they had a deal in place with the Buffalo Bills.
Miller couldn't believe Browns General Manager John Dorsey passed on an opportunity to pair Chubb with defensive end Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in 2017.
"I was super surprised," Miller said Tuesday during a conference call. "I thought for sure that the Browns were going to get him. I thought that Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb were going to be a dynamic duo for years to come. But they took Ward, and I went crazy when we picked Chubb."
Now the Browns (5-7-1) will face the tandem of Chubb and Miller on Saturday night when they visit the Broncos (6-7).
Chubb has 12 sacks (tied for sixth in the NFL) and Miller has 13.5 (second in the league).
Ward has had a strong rookie season with 48 tackles, three interceptions, eight other passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 12 games. However, he was inactive for Sunday's 26-20 win over the Carolina Panthers because of a concussion, and he didn't practice Tuesday.
"He's still in the protocol, and I'll know more [Wednesday] hopefully," Browns interim coach Gregg Williams said. "It'll be tough [for him to play Saturday] if he can’t practice [Wednesday], but we'll see."
Williams reiterated he liked Chubb a lot during the buildup to the draft, but the Browns picked Ward because they considered cornerback a greater need. Williams said it was a tough decision, but the Browns were particularly attracted to Ward's ability to play press-man coverage.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph gets it.
"As I watch Denzel, he's a guy who can take his guy out of the game," Joseph said on a conference call. "That's worth a top-five pick in this climate of offensive football.
"He's a very mature guy. He makes plays on the ball. He does not get beat deep. That's the key with young corners. He's aggressive, but he can play over top of guys. He's also a physical, aggressive tackler. In my opinion, that's a home run pick."
Chubb is 2.5 sacks shy of tying Jevon Kearse's NFL rookie record of 14.5 set in 1999. He already has the Broncos' rookie record, which had previously been shared by Miller and Rulon Jones at 11.5.
"He's a super advanced," Miller said of Chubb, who also has 47 tackles and two forced fumbles this season. "You cannot block him one on one."
Before the draft, Garrett made it known he didn't want the Browns to pick Chubb because he wanted them to stick with defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah as his primary running mate. The 32nd overall pick in 2016, Ogbah has 12.5 sacks in 37 career games, including three this season.
"I stick by what I said," said Garrett, who has 12.5 (tied for third in the NFL) this season.
Garrett said Chubb was "a good pick" and offenses cannot account for him and Miller "when both are eating at you."
Calling all fans
Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield isn't backing away from his request for more Browns fans to attend the Dec. 23 home finale against the Cincinnati Bengals after seeing empty seats at FirstEnergy Stadium this past weekend.
"Nothing against the fans. I get it. It's cold. But we're all out there anyway," Mayfield said.
Mayfield was asked if the Browns need to earn fans' trust after years of losing.
"It's not about what has happened in the past," he said. "We want that continued support that they have given over the years. There's no doubt about that. They stayed true and loyal. We just want the support like any other team would."
Free safety Damarious Randall said the crowd was loud against the Panthers despite the stadium being about three-quarters full.
"But definitely we would like to have a sell-out game on the 23rd," he said.
Honored by peers
Browns players voted cornerback Terrance Mitchell the 2018 Ed Block Courage Award winner.
"That's a lot of love," Mitchell said. "It makes me really appreciate my teammates for them to even think that way about me."
A member of each of the 32 NFL teams received the honor for exemplifying the qualities of Ed Block, the former head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts, based on courage, compassion, commitment and community.
Mitchell suffered a broken right wrist in Week 4, spent eight games on injured reserve and returned to action Sunday, when he started and played 71 of 74 snaps.
"He's a guy that we can rely on," Randall said. "He's a guy that you can trust one on one backside. He's a guy you can put on anybody. He's just one of those type of guys, a feisty player that'll do all the dirty work."
Center JC Tretter has been playing through a high-ankle sprain since he suffered the injury Oct. 14 against the Los Angeles Chargers. He revealed it was aggravated against the Pittsburgh Steelers (Oct. 28), Bengals (Nov. 25) and Panthers (Sunday).
"It’s painful at some times, but it’s still fun to be out there and play with your team and play with your brothers and go out there and battle," Tretter said. "Obviously, we’re having some really good results right now as a team, so it’s something you want to be a part of."
Tretter said he expects to face the Broncos on Saturday.
With a path to the end zone, wide receiver Rashard Higgins was wide open when he dropped a pass on third-and-10 from the Panthers 31-yard line. The Browns then settled for Greg Joseph's 49-yard field goal to tie the score 17-17 with 59 seconds left in the second quarter.
"I strive on catching the ball," Higgins said. "I mean, that’s what I do, and I can count on my hands how many times I dropped the ball this season. And that was my money, and I left it out there. But I can’t [dwell on] it. It happens to the great ones. It happened to me."
Did Higgins see an opportunity for a touchdown during the play?
"I seen seven [points], and we might’ve went for two, so I might’ve seen eight," Higgins said.
• The following Browns players didn't practice Tuesday: Ward, Tretter, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (biceps), fullback Orson Charles (ankle) and rookie guard/center Austin Corbett (foot). Ogunjobi played through the injury Sunday. "Gave him a day off today," Williams said. "He's sore, but he'll be fine."
• Several key Broncos players are injured. Cornerbacks Chris Harris (fibula) and Isaac Yiadom (shoulder) won't play Saturday. Other starters who didn't practice Tuesday were receiver Courtland Sutton (quadriceps) and defensive end Derek Wolfe (concussion).
• There had been some speculation among media that John DeFilippo could emerge as a Browns head coaching candidate, but his chances took a crushing blow Tuesday when the Minnesota Vikings fired him as their offensive coordinator. DeFilippo served as the offensive coordinator of the Browns in 2015.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.