Breaking down the Browns' 2017 season, position by position. Today we’re looking at Cleveland’s defensive backs. *
By the numbers:
Jason McCourty — 14 games, 14 starts; 65 tackles, 14 PD, 3 INT, 2 FF
Jamar Taylor — 16 games, 15 starts; 62 tackles, 10 PD, 1 FF, 0.5 sack
Jabrill Peppers — 13 games, 13 starts; 57 tackles, 3 PD, 1 INT
Derrick Kindred — 14 games, 10 starts; 57 tackles, 6 PD, 1 INT
Briean Boddy-Calhoun — 13 games, 7 starts; 39 tackles, 6 PD
Mike Jordan — 15 games, 1 start; 20 tackles, 3 PD
Kai Nacua — 16 games, 3 starts; 14 tackles
Justin Currie — 3 games; 7 tackles, 1 sack,
*Ibraheim Campbell — 8 games, 2 starts; 16 tackles, 1 PD
*no longer with the team
How was 2017? A week before the season opener, the Browns parted ways with veteran cornerback Joe Haden, who then signed with the Steelers later that afternoon. In his absence, Cleveland saw Jason McCourty, who joined the team last spring after eight seasons in Tennessee, fill that void with three interceptions in the first six games of the season. Unfortunately for the Browns, McCourty was the only DB to record more than one pick as Cleveland finished 31st in interceptions with seven. In fact, the unit didn’t record a takeaway through the air from Week 7 to Week 17 until rookie safety Jabrill Peppers picked off Landry Jones in the season finale.
Reasons to be optimistic? McCourty, who turned in a solid campaign, is under contract for at least another year. The Browns also return Peppers (the 25th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft), who started to come into his own late in the season. Second-year strong safety Derrick Kindred, who was placed on injured reserve in December, continued to show promise as a hard-hitting run stopper. Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun combined for 101 tackles and 16 pass breakups despite nagging injuries throughout the season.
What might happen this offseason? Don’t be surprised if the Browns add a free safety and a top-shelf cornerback via either free agency or the upcoming NFL Draft. Due to become RFAs this spring, notable free safeties include: Tre Boston (Chargers) Lamarcus Joyner (Rams), Michael Thomas (Dolphins) and Reggie Nelson (Raiders). Notable corners include: Malcolm Butler (Patriots), Rashaan Melvin (Colts), Kyle Fuller (Bears), Trumaine Johnson (Rams), Prince Amukamara (Bears), Brent Grimes (Buccaneers), Morris Claiborne (Jets) and Justin Bethel (Cardinals). Notable prospects in the draft include Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick (who’s viewed as a do-it-all defensive back), Florida State safety/hybrid Derwin James, Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, Iowa corner Justin Jackson, UCF corner Mike Hughes, Auburn corner Carlton Davis and LSU corner Donte Jackson.