The Cleveland Browns have been investing a lot in their secondary in recent years, both through the draft and through free agency. Even after dealing away their first-round pick to acquire quarterback Deshaun Watson this year, they still used their top pick, 68th overall, on cornerback Martin Emerson.
But he won’t have an easy time cracking the starting lineup with Denzel Ward locked up long-term and Greedy Williams appearing to be back the full health, as well. That leaves last year’s first-round draft pick, Greg Newsome II, with the opportunity to work in the slot, which he is fully embracing.
“I think it’s a benefit toward me”, he told reporters last week, via the team’s website, about getting practices reps in the slot for possibly starting there this season. “I’ll be able to be around the ball a lot more. I’m definitely liking the inside. It’s going to be fun. I think I’ll be able to make some more plays, get some sacks and things like that”.
Newsome has the size and athleticism to be flexible in what he is asked to do, so it is a role to which he can be suited, but the Browns are looking at just about everybody during this OTA period to give them an opportunity to work in the slot and see what they look like there.
Troy Hill was their primary slot defender in 2021, a player whom they signed in free agency just last year, but they traded him back to the Los Angeles Rams, from whence he came, during the 2022 NFL Draft after selecting Emerson, in exchange for a 2023 fifth-round pick.
Newsome did go back and forth between the outside and the slot last season, which enabled him to play nearly 700 defensive snaps as a rookie over 12 games, with 11 starts. He recorded 37 tackles and registered nine passes defensed, but he is still looking for his first NFL interception—he had just one during his three seasons at Northwestern as well.
He told reporters that he has actually kept in contact with Hill to discuss the position (at least, as one small part of their relationship), talking about how it’s one of the more intricate positions to play on the entire field, and taxing with the different body types one is likely to face along the interior.
The Browns are bringing back pretty close to their entire starting defensive lineup from last season, a rarity for the organization, so that continuity, especially in the secondary, should help to simplify things for Newsome, with communication of particular importance.