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Analyzing the safeties: Future looks bright after injuries forced plenty of shuffling

Cleveland’s acquisition of Ronnie Harrison Jr. helped boost back end of defense

The offseason is officially underway, and free agency is just around the corner. Until then, we'll be putting the Browns' current roster through a thorough, position by position review.

Next up: The safeties

The Raw Numbers

Pass defense - 247.6 yards per game (22nd in NFL)

Passing TDs allowed - 31 (25th in NFL)

Passes allowed of 20+ yards - 49 (T-13th in NFL)

Passes allowed of 40+ yards - 10 (T-25th in NFL)

Karl Joseph - 67 tackles, 4 passes defensed, INT, 2 fumble recoveries

Andrew Sendejo - 67 tackles, 2 passes defensed, forced fumble

Ronnie Harrison Jr. - 38 tackles, sack, 7 passes defensed, INT, TD, fumble recovery

Sheldrick Redwine - 27 tackles, 0.5 sacks, pass defensed, INT

Analysis in 150 Words or Less

Joe Woods' plans for the back end of the defense were thrown for a loop during training camp when second-round rookie Grant Delpit suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. The acquisition of Harrison gave the group some more flexibility and productivity, but it didn't arrive until a month into the season and came in spurts thereafter as Harrison dealt with a handful of injuries along the way. Still, the group held its own, as Sendejo provided stability and Joseph, who dealt with a hamstring injury early in the year, provided a handful of big plays down the stretch — none bigger than his touchdown on a fumble recovery to kick off the Browns' Wild Card win over the Steelers. The future appears bright with Harrison and Delpit, who is making great progress in his long road back to the field, at the center of it.

Number of Significance

74.3 — Defensive grade from Pro Football Focus for Harrison, the 15th-best among safeties who played at least 10 games in 2020. Harrison worked his way slowly into the lineup before a breakout performance of sorts Week 5 against the Colts, when he gave the Browns their first pick-six of the season. Harrison has a nose for the football and the versatility Woods covets from his safeties.

Low Point

Just like the corners, Cleveland's safeties had a day to forget when the Browns opened the 2020 season with a lopsided loss to the Ravens. Baltimore had its way in every way through the air, and that included a number of deep passes that made the Ravens' ground-heavy attack even tougher to stop. Lamar Jackson had just five incompletions and completed a pass of 25 yards or longer to three different receivers.

High Point

Aided by some nasty weather, Browns safeties kept everything in front of them Week 10 against Deshaun Watson and the Texans. Watson was limited to 20 mostly short completions for 163 yards — by far his fewest of the season and one of the lowest yardage efforts of his career. Watson completed just one pass of more than 20 yards — a 29-yarder to Randall Cobb — and had just a handful go for more than 10 yards. The Browns needed this kind of effort on a day the offense was able to muster just one touchdown en route to a 10-7 victory.

What They Said

"God had his hand on this one. It has been great. I could not even imagine a better place or a better fit for me. I feel comfortable, and I like it here." — Harrison

"It really opens my eyes to not take the game for granted. It can be taken away at any time. I'm ready to get back now but it's a slow process. I took a lot of things for granted, just like walking, the simplest things like that. I definitely have a newfound respect for those things and I just can't wait to get back on the field." — Delpit

Nathan Zegura's Take

"The safety room was one that never looked like we thought it was going to at any point in 2020 … This back end could look completely different than it did in 2020 and I know it's a priority to improve the play the Browns got out of the back end of this defense. This is a position I say definitely stay tuned. The big eyes will be on Grant Delpit and his return to form for the Browns. He was dominant at LSU and I think he's going to look great flying around the field in the brown and orange."

Who's Back for 2021?

Harrison, Delpit and Redwine along with Elijah Benton and Jovante Moffatt, both of whom joined the Browns as undrafted free agents in 2020.

Who's a Potential Free Agent?

Sendejo and Joseph could both hit the market after playing on one-year deals in 2020.