Editor's Note: Over the next few days leading to training camp, Nathan Zegura, Jason Gibbs and Anthony Poisal will be giving their thoughts and predictions on some of the biggest questions surrounding the Browns as they prepare for the 2022 season.
Few secondaries around the league match the talent the Browns will have in that group in 2022.
The secondary is arguably the strongest piece of the Browns' roster as it returns several players who built quality seasons a year ago. A strong, deep secondary is undoubtedly a necessity with the amount of talented, smart QBs in the league, and the Browns have steadily assembled and maintained one over the years with high draft picks, a big free-agent acquisition or two, and — as of this offseason — an important contract extension.
Which player from the group shines most this season?
Nathan Zegura: The Browns have an embarrassment of riches in terms of the potential answers to this question from safeties John Johnson III and Grant Delpit to corners Greedy Williams and the incomparable Denzel Ward. However, I am going to with Greg Newsome who is entering just his second season in the league, but already feels like a veteran. Newsome will be the team's starting outside corner opposite Ward in base situations and then will kick inside to the slot corner role in the Browns nickel and dime packages. Newsome is incredibly effective in both man to man and zone situations and his play intelligence, ability to mirror and remain "sticky" in coverage combine with special athleticism to create a star in the making. As a rookie, Newsome graded 22nd among all corners in coverage grade at PFF and showed a natural aptitude to play in the slot. When lined up inside, he allowed just .93 yards per coverage snap, the fifth-best mark in the entire league. While Newsome didn't record an interception in his rookie season, he did get his hand on nine passes last year and the interceptions will no doubt come this year. DB Coach Jeff Howard has noted how much farther along Newsome is entering 2022 and that has to be a scary thought for opposing offenses.
Jason Gibbs: A LOT of options here but there's one that stands out to me. Greg Newsome II. This is his coming out party I believe. First and foremost I think Newsome will get his first NFL interception and it will be the first of many. Secondly the young man has put the work in this off-season and with a season in Joe Woods' system under his belt and a defense loaded with playmakers I think Newsome shows why he's one of the best up and comers at corner in the NFL. By the way my runners-up for this would be John Johnson III and Grant Delpit. If Delpit and Newsome take the step many of us are thinking they will take look out. I think now that the team and Johnson know what role they want him to play in this defense you'll see a fantastic season from the sixth-year pro.
Anthony Poisal: I think you can really make an argument here for any of the top players expected to start at both safety and cornerback. I'm going to stick with the cornerbacks and go with … Ward. It's not a surprise, I know, but he's 25 and still emerging into his prime. He was excellent last year and tallied 10 pass breakups, but that was actually a career-low — which highlights just how good he's been the last four seasons. I'll also make an argument for Williams, who tied Ward with a team-leading 10 PBUs last year and will likely play more snaps due to Newsome moving inside. If Williams can stay healthy for another full season, he could also position himself for a breakout year.
Check out photos of players and coaches getting ready for the start of training camp next week