Training camp begins in two days. We're breaking down the Browns' cornerbacks in the meantime.
What we know:
In an offseason of changes, few position groups were as overhauled as the Browns' cornerbacks. Following the team's winless season, Cleveland decided to revamp the room and start over. It began with signing veteran free agents T.J. Carrie (a multiyear starting in Oakland), E.J. Gaines and Terrance Mitchell and trading Jason McCourty to New England at the start of the new league year. A month later, the Browns selected former Ohio State star corner Denzel Ward with the fourth-overall pick in the NFL Draft, giving them a cornerstone in the secondary for years to come.
Can the Browns corners take the ball away? Cleveland finished second-to-last in interceptions last season, a dynamic that underscored the larger struggles of a back-end that couldn't make plays or slow down opposing pass games. It's been a point of emphasis, cornerbacks coach Dwayne Walker said, for a new-look group still building chemistry. "We have our little code in our room in terms of how many interceptions do we have, how many PBUs, so we just try to keep track of that on a daily conversation," he said. "I just think if you play 16 games, if you can get one pick a game that's 16 picks. So I'm not saying that's easy to do ,but that's something we talk about quite a bit. 16 is always the goal if you can get one a game."
Speaking of Ward, the 21-year-old Northeast Ohio native shined throughout the team's offseason workouts, demonstrating the talent that made him one of college football's preeminent defenders. In the process, Ward earned both first-team reps with the defense and the respect of his veteran teammates. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said Ward, much like Myles Garrett (the No. 1 overall pick in 2017), let their play speak louder than any words. "Both he and Myles — I'll have to say this, I want to be honest with this – have fit into the locker room faster than most rookies that I've had the chance to draft," Williams said. "I don't move them up the depth chart without the understanding of how they're fitting in with the other veterans that play on the field. When a veteran comes to me and says, 'Hey coach, we're better when Denzel is out there.' So really? Now you're taking ownership of him? Oh really? Now you're mentoring him? We'll see. I will give him a couple of reps out there, and we will see. After that, when you give that kid the opportunity and that he fits in the room, as opposed to just anointing him because we drafted him. He hasn't played in this league. I don't anoint anybody. Both he and Myles got the acceptance of everyone faster than most rookies have had. "
Not a single member of the Browns' cornerbacks were on the roster at the time of the team's 2017 cut-down day (not including Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who has moved over to safety)
Says it all:
"These guys are pros so they get it. If we have to come in and do extra work or come in on the weekend and try to catch up on some things, all of these guys are really proactive from that standpoint to try to get them to where we need them by the time we play Pittsburgh." — CBs coach Dwayne Walker on the group developing chemistry
How many were kept at last year's 53-man cutdown? 5