Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry has taken a heavy toll on the team’s defense this offseason.
Since the Browns’ playoff game ended against the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL playoff divisional round, Berry has made additions at all levels of defense, including:
- Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley at defensive end
- Sheldon Day, Malik Jackson, Malik McDowell, Damion Square, Tommy Togai and Marvin Wilson on defensive tackle
- Tony Fields II, Anthony Walker and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to linebacker
- Troy Hill and Greg Newsome at the cornerback
- John Johnson III and Richard LeCounte III safe
All of this work is an effort to give defensive coordinator Joe Woods the types of players he needs to stop Baltimore’s Trace McSorley or Kansas City’s Chad Henne, along with a few other notable players, from converting to key third parties to help. to defeat the Browns.
If Pro Football Focus is to be believed, this work will pay off – especially in high school – as four players from Cleveland have landed in the site’s ranking of the best players in their respective positions.
Denzel Ward, who is one of the best cornerbacks in the game and a cornerstone of defense, ranks 8th among outside cornerbacks:
Despite being drafted into the top five in 2018 and playing for a buzz-generating team heading into the 2021 season, Ward is often overlooked as one of the best cornerbacks in the world. NFL. He recorded cover scores of at least 72.0 in each of his first three seasons in the league and allowed just 51.4% of passes thrown in his cover. Ward’s dominance in individual coverage (96th percentile since 2018) is particularly noteworthy.
Troy Hill, signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Rams, comes in at No.5 among slot cornerbacks:
Hill is a newcomer to the slots cornerback ranks in 2020 having spent the vast majority of his time as an outside cornerback in the first five years of his career. The move was successful for the Hill and Rams defense last season.
Hill was the NFL’s highest-ranked slot cornerback (87.8) with 620 shots inside. The difference between his rank when lined up in the slot versus the outside was glaring. Hill only got an overall rating of 43.9 in wide cornerback in 350 shots. He is set to start next season as a starting nickel for Cleveland, with Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams and Greg Newsome II away on an improved defense from Cleveland.
John Johnson III, the club’s signature in free agency, is No. 3 among safeties:
Johnson has achieved overall PFF and Coverage ratings of at least 80.0 in every healthy season he’s played in the NFL, and now he has the opportunity to show he can stay at this incredible level with a new team after his offseason move to Cleveland.
Ronnie Harrison, who came to the Browns in a mid-season trade in 2020, is ranked 30th among safeties:
Harrison’s career hasn’t been a brilliant one at Jacksonville, but the second he was traded to Cleveland he started to look like a different player, and it was in a high school that wasn’t loaded with quality. . In 2021, Harrison is expected to be surrounded by a dramatically improved supporting cast who can build on the overall PFF rating of 76.6 he posted in a few snaps last year.
The Browns should be pretty confident that Harrison, Johnson, Hill and Ward will all do as planned this season. If Grant Delpit can come back from the Achilles injury that ended his 2020 training camp season, and the combination of Newsome cornerback Greedy Williams, who also missed all of last season with an injury, may maintain the outside cornerback position opposite Ward, then the secondary has a chance to be one of the best units in the league.
If that happens, Browns fans could ease the anxiety a bit when the defense faces another third and long point this fall.