The Cleveland Browns planned for Grant Delpit to be a major part of their defense as soon as they used a second-round pick to select him last year. The safety out of LSU was immediately projected to be a starter as a rookie, but that opportunity was snatched away after he tore his Achilles in training camp.
His was just a series of misfortunes suffered by the Browns’ defense in particular last year, which also lost starting cornerback Greedy Williams for the entire season due to a training camp injury. Both, however, are expected to be back fully this year, with Delpit telling reports he anticipates being a full go for training camp.
He spoke to reporters after OTA practices yesterday, and told them that his ankle “feels better and better every day. It’s a long process, long journey to get fully healthy, but the plan is to be fully healthy by training camp”.
Without Delpit, the Browns essentially operated with a rotation of journeyman veteran safeties whom they signed to one-year deals in Andrew Sendejo, Karl Joseph, and later, Ronnie Harrison. Harrison is still with the team, but expected to play behind Delpit, and their biggest free agency signing, John Johnson III from the Los Angeles Rams.
“They drafted me for a reason”, he told reporters confidently, as he came off of a college football championship with now-division-rival Joe Burrow, whom he no doubt hopes to intercept many times. “I’ll be learning from guys like John and Ronnie and it’s going to be great. We’re all playmakers, and now it’s time for me to see what I can do”.
While Delpit doesn’t figure to have to do much competing for a starting role, Williams won’t have that same luxury. The Browns used a first-round draft pick to bring in Greg Newsome III. They also signed Troy Hill, also from the Rams, in free agency, and he can play both outside and inside. Denzel Ward is already established in one position.
Suddenly, what was arguably one of the worst secondaries in football last season (minus Ward) could be one of the strongest, with an assemblage of high-pedigreed young talent and key proven pickups via free agency. Combine that with a potent pass rush that adds Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley in the mix, and this could prove to be a major upgrade.
Which is worrisome for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They already lost to the Browns in each of their two most recent games played, including in the Wildcard Round, allowing Cleveland to notch its first postseason victory since 1994. They did blow the Browns out in their first meeting a year ago, but that feels a long time away by now.