Browns Mailbag

Browns Mailbag: Where will Grant Delpit help most on Browns defense?

There's a little more certainty in the air with Thursday's unveiling of the Browns' 2020 schedule.

We're enjoying that feeling and looking ahead to the big games while we answer four of your questions on this chilly Friday in Northeast Ohio.

I think one of our forgotten strengths of next year is our young corners in Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward. Do you think we see an increase in performance this upcoming season? -- Brooks P., Cincinnati

That's the goal. Both played well throughout the 2019 season but were unfortunately sidelined for the same four games because of their respective hamstring injuries. Williams' rookie season kind of flew under the radar but it's worth noting that it was very solid. He earned the starting job in training camp and was Cleveland's top option alongside Ward for every game he was healthy. He also held his own against a barrage of targets thanks to Ward, who played at a high level when he was healthy, being avoided by opposing quarterbacks.

Cleveland's offseason activity at cornerback can be viewed as reason to believe the Browns expect bigger things from the duo in 2020. Veteran Kevin Johnson signed as a free agent and likely will make a push for snaps in the slot. The Browns didn't draft a cornerback for the first time since 2008 but added one of the top available undrafted free agents in Oklahoma State's A.J. Green. So there will be some new faces in the room, but Ward and Williams -- along with veteran Terrance Mitchell -- enter the year as the players with the most recent experience.

In the second round the Browns selected Grant Delpit. I was wondering in this defensive system, do the Browns see him more as a free or strong (box) safety? And who do you think will be the two starters at the position, if games are played in September? -- Adam C., Charleston, West Virginia

The allure of Delpit to the Browns was his versatility. He impressed EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry with his coverage skills, which allowed him to intercept eight passes over three seasons, including five in his unanimous All-American campaign of 2018. He won't be pigeon-holed into one spot with the Browns, who plan to take advantage of Delpit's ability to play at multiple spots on the field.

"There is a versatility to his game," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "You saw him play every job in the backend, except corner. He can be in the post. He can be down low. He can play nickel. He can play dime. A guy that can play across the defense was impressive. He is certainly a playmaker, and something we will stress is making plays on the ball. That is something that has shown up in his career."

As for the starters, that will be determined in training camp. The Browns brought back just Sheldrick Redwine and J.T. Hassell from last year's roster while adding veterans Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo in free agency. Both Joseph and Sendejo were regular starters with their previous teams but they and Delpit will have to earn their spots on the field.

"No jobs are given," Berry said. "Everybody is going to have to compete for their playing time in the fall."

So far, we have replaced linebackers Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert with B.J. Goodson and Jacob Phillips. Are there any veteran linebackers available who could add competition and/or leadership to our roster either through trade or free agency? -- Nick D., Wayne, West Virginia

Gauging the trade market at this stage of the offseason is a tough task, so we won't attempt that. As far as potential free agents, there are a handful still available, including Nigel Bradham, Darron Lee, Alec Ogletree, Wesley Woodyard, Preston Brown, Deone Buchanan and Mark Barron among others.

The Browns' 2020 regular-season schedule has been released. Check out how the season unfolds with this photo gallery

Our three starting linebackers have a combined less than two years pro experience. How and where do we get some coverage backers? -- Duane B., Delevan, New York

The Browns are young at linebacker. There's no way around that. But that doesn't mean it has to be an area of weakness. Berry called it a "room of opportunity" while highlighting Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki, both of whom were drafted last year, as well as Phillips, the third-round pick out of LSU. Wilson started 14 games and Takitaki saw his playing time increase a bit during the second half of the season.

Berry referenced how both Kirksey and Schobert came into their own as NFL linebackers during this stage of their respective careers.

"It gives young players an opportunity to step up and establish their own roles within the system," Berry said. "We are excited to see that and see how that plays out over the course of the spring and summer."

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