Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Where will Jabrill Peppers fit on Cleveland's defense?

We're still picking up the pieces from a wild, busy draft weekend. [



We purged the mailbag of all the pre-draft queries and focused on five that arrived after the last of Cleveland's 10 picks was made.

What position will Jabrill Peppers play? LB? Box? Nickel? Safety? -- Trevor N., Chardon

All of the above?

We're being only mildly facetious in that answer. Odds are you won't see Peppers lining up much as a true linebacker after playing the position throughout his three years at Michigan. Peppers is listed as a strong safety but it's expected he'll be moved like a chess piece all across the defense. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has 129 days until the season opener to draw up all sorts of schemes and coach up Peppers to be ready for it. Peppers, of course, is experienced in that regard, as he played safety, linebacker, running back, punt returner and kick returner at Michigan.

"He plays in the secondary, strong safety. He can play both free and strong, but I think he's been a lot better around the ball," Browns coach Hue Jackson said Friday. "It's going to be really interesting just to see how Gregg uses him because Gregg's had so many players like this with this kind of skillset before in his defense. It's going to be exciting to watch."

A recent example of this occurred in 2015, when Williams helped Mark Barron rehabilitate what had been a fledgling start to his NFL career. The hard-hitting safety out of Alabama struggled during his first few seasons in Tampa Bay and was traded to the Rams for a fourth- and sixth-round pick. Williams saw what he had in Barron, saw the ever-changing nature of the game, and moved him into a hybrid, weakside linebacker role. Barron started every game for the Rams last season, racking up 118 tackles and two interceptions -- just one fewer than he had as a safety during three seasons with the Buccaneers.

Barron and Peppers aren't identical players by any means, but it's worth remembering what Barron was able to accomplish in Williams' defense when discussing the potential of Peppers.

Are there any FA's on the open market that you can see the Browns going after before training camp? Love the rookie drafts picks!! And love CBD when it comes on up here in AK at 9 a.m. every weekday. -- Michael P., Fairbanks, Alaska

Let's look at a couple of positions where the Browns could conceivably use a few veteran bodies after not adding any players to them during the draft. The first is wide receiver, as veterans Eric Decker, Victor Cruz, Stevie Johnson, Michael Floyd, Cecil Shorts and Jordan Norwood are currently looking for work. Another position is linebacker, where players such as Jon Bostic, Josh McNary and Rey Maualuga are available. Listing these names doesn't mean I think the Browns will go after them. It's just what's available if the Browns go that route.

How will the cornerback position shape up? Can Howard Wilson be a starter or will he be relegated to a nickel or backup role? -- Chris J., Shaker Heights

The opportunity is there for Wilson to make an immediate impact. Cleveland has room for young players to help right away at cornerback, where veterans Joe Haden and Jamar Taylor lead the way in a room that is otherwise very young. Briean Boddy-Calhoun was one of the brightest spots in last year's rookie class and came away from his first season with a ton of valuable experience. Williams has stressed on multiple occasions the slate is entirely clean for all of the Browns' defenders, meaning a player such as Wilson can grab immediate playing time if he proves he deserves it. His ballhawking skills could be a big plus to a team that finished tied for 23rd in the league with 10 interceptions.

How many of the 10 draft picks do you think will make the team of 53? -- Bob R., Novelty

That's impossible to tell at the moment but the design of Cleveland's plan was to make it more and more of a challenge with each passing season. All of the Browns' 14 draft picks made the initial 53-man roster last season but two -- DB Trey Caldwell and LB Scooby Wright III -- spent the bulk of the year on the practice squad. Wright is the only member of that class who is no longer with the team. So, in sum, it's going to be highly competitive for members of this year's draft class and last year's to land a coveted spot on an increasingly competitive roster.

Have the Browns considered moving Joe Haden to FS and letting Boddy-Calhoun take the CB2 spot? -- Tevin D., Cleveland

Williams hasn't dove into specifics about how he'll use his players on defense, but that scenario seems unlikely. Haden is healthy after undergoing offseason surgery and confident he can return to form as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

"I feel healthy now. As long as I feel like I am out there being able to be healthy and just taking care of my body, that is the biggest thing," Haden said. "I don't feel like anything else is a factor."

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