The Cleveland Browns have had a good offseason, to say the least, at least as far as their secondary is concerned. Not only have they received positive medical updates from two of their starters (or projected starters), they also signed two new starters who are well-regarded and will be expected to step right in and make an impact.
Basically, Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward should be the only starter returning to the lineup in 2021. Cornerback Greedy Williams looks to be on his way back, while last year’s second-round pick, safety Grant Delpit, should be ready to go after missing his rookie season due to injury.
To these injury returns, the Browns have added a pair of free agent signings from the Los Angeles Rams in safety John Johnson III and cornerback Troy Hill, who is capable of playing both inside and outside, but figures to play inside with Ward and Williams on the boundaries.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for us”, Browns defensive backs coach Jeff Howard told reporters earlier this week about the additions to his unit. “I’m excited to work with them. There’s so many variations that you could do that allows the play-caller to come up with a multitude of schemes and personnel groupings”.
Cleveland had three members of the secondary go down with injuries in training camp, with only one of them returning. Free agent signing and nickel starter Kevin Johnson actually suffered a lacerated spleen, but was able to suit up for 13 games. Delpit tore his Achilles, while Williams suffered a shoulder injury in the same practice, which was accompanied by nerve damage.
“That was a lot that happened to us”, Howard conceded. “I feel like football really doesn’t produce character; it really tests character. That situation is one example of that. Especially with our guys, we are going to go into the season, it’s going to be tough and we’re going to get hit in the mouth. It’s about how you are going to handle it”.
Working with all new safeties—Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph both signed to one-year deals in free agency, and both now gone, and later Ronnie Harrison brought in mid-season—Cleveland’s secondary was a bit of a jumble for most of the season, relying on journeyman Terrance Mitchell to be a full-time starter at cornerback as well.
One can certainly argue that the secondary was their weakest link on the entire roster, so considering how well they did a year ago, it’s a bit intimidating to think how good they might be capable of being in 2021 if they actually add a strong secondary into the equation. Especially if they beef up the pass rush across from Myles Garrett.