The Cleveland Browns overhauled a lot of their roster over the course of the past offseason, largely a product of their new regime, but they also lost some key players in free agency. As a result, a lot of their team is going to look different from last season.
In particular is the starting secondary, in which the only player that will be returning to the starting lineup is former first-round draft pick Joe Haden. Haden struggled with concussion issues in 2015 and ended up missing much of the season, but he is ready to resume his role, in a defensive backfield that looks an awful lot different.
Cleveland brought in Tramon Williams last season to replace their own departed starting cornerback. Williams, now 33, was a longtime member of the Packers from 2006 up through the 2014 season. He started and played in 15 games for the Browns last year, intercepting one pass to go along with 10 pass deflections.
That will no longer be his role, as in the starting lineup now will be Jamar Taylor, the fourth-year former Dolphin whom the Browns acquired via a draft-day trade back in April. Taylor started six of 12 games for Miami last year with four pass deflections. He has no interceptions as of yet on his resume.
But he won the starting job opposite Haden, and Williams will be reserved as the team’s nickel back. In that role, of course, he is still going to see his share of playing time, as almost every team by now spends the majority of their time on defensive with five members of the secondary on the field.
The safeties behind Haden and Taylor, however, are completely different, after the Browns lost promising young safety Tashaun Gipson in free agency, and later released veteran starter Donte Whitner.
But Cleveland found their replacements from within, rather than trying to replenish the secondary via free agency, and as of now, the starting spots will be held by second-year former fourth-round draft pick Ibraheim Campbell and fourth-year former seventh-round draft pick (originally by the Eagles) Jordan Poyer.
Between the pair of them, Campbell and Poyer have started five games, all of them coming last season with the Browns. Poyer intercepted two passes last year in addition to recording a sack. Campbell recorded 16 tackles in 15 games played with the one start.
Taylor was a second-round draft pick by the Dolphins in 2013. Miami was willing to part with him heading into the final year of his rookie contract for simply swapping draft picks in the seventh round with the Browns.
He started the final two preseason games for Cleveland after beginning as their slot cornerback in the first two games. He recorded six tackles to go along with two passes defensed. Now he is just one of three new starters that constitute the Browns’ new secondary—players who have never been full-time starters before.