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Off-Season Position Analysis

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Browns 2020 position preview: Analyzing the cornerbacks

The virtual work is complete and training camp will be here sooner than we know it.

From now until then, we're going to devote some time to the different position groups that dot the Browns' roster. There's been plenty of change since the Browns last took the field, and we're examining all of it with an eye toward the 2020 season.

We're continuing with a position that is led by a young Pro Bowler and features a variety of options at new defensive coordinator Joe Woods' disposal.

The Cornerbacks

Check out photos of the cornerbacks the Browns will be bringing into training camp

What we know: The Browns like what they have with Ward and Williams on the outside after they performed well throughout a 2019 campaign that saw them miss the same four games with their respective hamstring injuries. Ward was a Pro Bowler as a rookie and has already established a reputation as a corner you don't want to throw on very often. That's why Williams faced a barrage of targets during his rookie campaign and held his own, for the most part. Mitchell is a reliable veteran who has started a number of games and will bring that same savvy into his third season with the Browns. Johnson, a former first-round pick out of Wake Forest, gives Cleveland an experienced option in the slot after the offseason departure of T.J. Carrie. Olumba's signing didn't generate many headlines, but the former Cowboys practice squad player provides an intriguing option and some ideal measurables (6-2, 205) at the position. New defensive coordinator Joe Woods has worked with cornerbacks for years and plans to be hands-on with the group as he constructs the identity of the overall unit.

What we don't know: What's the potential of this group if Ward and Williams can stay healthy for more of the season? Their injuries last year threw a major wrench into the secondary and required players who weren't even on the roster at the time to play prominent roles during a pivotal stretch of the season. Ward and Williams returned just in time to see injuries and suspensions decimate the defensive line. Another question: Who will compete with Johnson for a role in the slot? Johnson's experience at the position isn't enormous — he began his career with the Texans as a traditional outside corner — but it's significant when compared to the rest of the room. Could Ward, Williams or Mitchell potentially take on more snaps at the position? Also, this group is WIDE open for the final couple of spots. Thomas has already proven how valuable he can be on special teams, and the others who fill out the group likely will have to show the same.

X-Factor: Mitchell - In 2018, Mitchell made quick work of an open competition at cornerback and landed a starting job by the midpoint of training camp. He was playing some of the best football of his career before suffering a broken arm that kept him off the field for half of the season. This past year, he lost a tightly contested battle with Williams but proved to be incredibly valuable when Ward and Williams went down with their injuries. The odds have been stacked against Mitchell since he joined the Browns, but he's continued to find a way to make an impact. He shouldn't be overlooked in 2020, either, as Cleveland sorts out the roles and responsibilities at cornerback.

The biggest number: 169.2 - Passing yards allowed per game by the 49ers in 2019, a figure that ranked No. 1 in the NFL. Woods comes to Cleveland after serving as San Francisco's defensive backs coach/pass game coordinator.

Says it all: "The back end, we have some young corners. I have coached corners my whole career and the back end. When you have some young, talented corners, that excites you." — Woods

How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 5

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