BEREA − The last time the Browns played the Baltimore Ravens, it was just Michael Woods II’s second game as a professional.
Woods played six offensive snaps and three special-teams snaps for the Browns in a Week 7 loss in Baltimore. That was the second of five consecutive games in which the rookie sixth-round pick saw time before being inactive for the Weeks 12 and 13 games against Tampa Bay and Houston.
However, as the Browns get set to play the Ravens for the second time this season at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium, Woods has found his way back onto the field. He’s coming off a game last Sunday in Cincinnati in which he played 15 offensive and another 11 special-teams snaps for a season-high 26 total snaps.
Browns star Myles Garrett speaks:Lack of playoffs for Browns would be ‘failure’ despite personal ‘success’
The difference, Woods said, between where he was the first time the Browns played Baltimore and where he is as a player as the rematch in Cleveland nears is night and day.
“Just more comfortable,” Woods told the Beacon Journal. “Just got more reps under my belt, seeing more looks from defenses, watching more films. So I’ve just become more savvy, I would say, since then.”
Woods has also become more important for the Browns as they head into Saturday’s game. No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper is battling a core muscle injury that, even though he’s playing through it, has clearly impacted him in some ways.
Meanwhile, fellow rookie David Bell did not practice this week due to toe and thumb injuries. Although he’s officially listed as questionable by the Browns, there’s a growing sentiment that he’s unlikely to play.
That leaves Woods as the guy to see an even more elevated role behind Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Browns QB Deshaun Watson on improvement:‘I have a long way to go’ to get back to, surpass 2020 Pro Bowl level
“I mean, it is a next-man-up mentality in general,” Woods said. “I don’t think it’s too difficult at all. We all learn our plays conceptually and as a whole, rather than learning one position. So we all kind of have that flexibility. And also, I mean, we just went through COVID and all that kind of stuff. So, for some years now, we’ve been on this next man up no matter where you’ve been playing. So I don’t think it’s too bad.”
Woods has two catches for 21 yards this season, both before the Week 9 bye. He’s been targeted six times, but not since the Week 10 loss at Miami.
Although not specifically targeted, Woods was involved in a key play in the Bengals loss. He was coming open on a deep crossing route on the same play that Deshaun Watson tried to throw to Peoples-Jones, but ended up being intercepted by Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates.