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Position Preview

Browns 2023 Position Preview: Breaking down the safeties

Two Super Bowl-winning veterans were added to elevate the secondary — and help one key returning player discover his best form


Can you believe it? Training camp is just over one week away. It's been another busy offseason for the Browns, and we'll start seeing how all the new and refined pieces come together very soon. We're preparing for it all with a comprehensive preview of every position on the roster, rolling next with the safeties.

The Safeties

Juan Thornhill

Grant Delpit

Rodney McLeod

D'Anthony Bell

Bubba Bolden

Tanner McCalister

Ronnie Hickman

What we know: The Browns attempted to upgrade the room this offseason with the addition of Thornhill, a four-year veteran with Super Bowl-winning experience who is expected to become an immediate leader for the defense. The same can be said for McLeod, who won a Super Bowl with Browns defense coordinator Jim Schwartz with the Eagles and is entering his 12th season in the league. Their additions should help Delpit, who enjoyed a career-best season a year ago, step into a larger role as a box safety who plays closer to the line of scrimmage to disrupt plays rather than playing deep — although Schwartz has said he'll rotate safeties across all roles and could deploy three-safety packages at times. The safety room is a group that certainly doesn't lack experience, and there are a lot of reasons to believe it'll perform at a higher level.

What we don't know: Delpit had a career-best season in 2022 with a team-leading four interceptions and 105 tackles, but the Browns are confident he can be even better. Will being surrounded by Thornhill and McLeod help him do that? With Thornhill set to be positioned as the primary free safety and McLeod able to play a variety of roles in the secondary, Delpit should have plenty of opportunities to play closer to the line of scrimmage, where he's been effective and comfortable throughout his career.

The X-Factor: Delpit, for all the reasons we stated above. Yes, Thornhill will carry a large onus toward the overall improvement of the position, but the group also needs Delpit to build on his big year last season. Thornhill should be able to handle assignments in the deep part of the defense, and the Browns should be significantly better if Delpit is also able to create damage in middle and closer parts near the line of scrimmage.

The biggest number: 7. That's how many combined interceptions Delpit and Thornhill had last year, a number the Browns would surely love to see from them again in 2023. The Browns totaled only 11 interceptions from the whole defense last season, and the expectation is that Delpit and Thornhill's pairing will help them increase their turnover total.

Says it all: "Whether it's first and second down or third down, the league is trending toward more wide receivers on the field, more tight ends that are really wide receivers. You need people that can neutralize those guys. You need guys that can cover these tough-matchup running backs, these tough-matchup tight ends, and they can play in the box, play deep, play man, and I think our safeties fit that." - Schwartz on the versatility of the safeties

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

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