Browns Mailbag

Browns Mailbag: Who has the best shot at wide open safety competition?

We're just about 24 hours away from seeing Myles Garrett and the rest of Cleveland's draft class on the field for the first time at rookie minicamp. [



Before it all gets started, let's look even further into the future with four questions from the Browns Mailbag.

Personally I would love to see us start at free safety our undrafted free agent Kai Nacua (BYU). Could he potentially win that job? What are your thoughts/opinions? - Patrick K., Ravenna

I believe anything is on the table for the Browns at safety. The team returns a number of players, including promising youngsters Derrick Kindred and Ed Reynolds II, at the position, but none who can be penciled in as a definite starter. Certainly there will be an expectation for first-round pick Jabrill Peppers to see immediate and significant field time at strong safety or wherever else defensive coordinator Gregg Williams schemes him to play, but he's only one player. The Browns need at least four they can rely upon.

Because of this dynamic, Nacua definitely has an opportunity to impress and land a spot on the 53-man roster. If he's gunning for the job at free safety, he'll likely be up against the likes of Reynolds -- who had a solid second half to last season and helped stabilize the back end of Cleveland's defense -- recently acquired Cleveland native Tyvis Powell, Kindred and Ibraheim Campbell. The key thing to remember for this position is this quote from Williams shortly after he was hired.

"If the ball goes over our head in a hurry, I don't care who's coaching or playing, they don't get to do it," Williams said. "We've go to, in this wild, throwing league, limit the balls that go over our head in a hurry."

After the draft, the Browns signed 11 rookie undrafted free agents. Do you think any of them have a chance to make the 53-man roster? - Tom V., Chattanooga, Tennessee

I do simply because it seems to happen every year with nearly every NFL team. After roster cutdowns last year, there were more undrafted free agents on rosters (481) than first- and second-round picks combined (480), according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Last year, it was two, as linebacker Dominique Alexander and defensive back Tracy Howard made the squad and remained with the team from start to finish. Starting running back Isaiah Crowell made the Browns as an undrafted free agent. The list goes on and on.

When it pertains to this year's roster and what the Browns did in the draft, there are, perhaps, increased opportunities at defensive back (J.D. Harmon, Alvin Hill, Kai Nacua, Channing Stribling) and tight end (Taylor McNamara), but if a player at any position proves to be one of the best at his spot, there will be a place for him on the team. Everyone is on equal ground at the start of training camp.

On average, how many offensive linemen are usually a part of the 53-man roster? I know Greco can play both guard and center, and Erving is versatile as well. Who do you see on the current O-Line roster that might no longer be a part of the team? - Rick A., Huntington, West Virginia

Last year, the Browns kept eight offensive linemen after the roster was reduced to 53 players. That's fairly typical and can fluctuate either way throughout the season. You'll rarely see a team carry less than seven.

For this exercise, let's start with the four likeliest starters in the room -- Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler -- and work from there. Shon Coleman, Cameron Erving and Spencer Drango could be the top three players competing for the starting right tackle job. Both Erving and Drango have proven capable of playing other spots on the offensive line. Fifth-round pick Rod Johnson is expected to back up Thomas at left tackle. There's a logjam at center behind Tretter with Austin Reiter, Marcus Martin, Gabe Ikard and Anthony Fabiano, so it figures to be hard to keep most of them when the roster is pared down to 53. Greco, a reliable veteran who is recovering from a foot injury, is capable of playing center and guard. Versatility and, perhaps, effectiveness on special teams will be key for the players vying for the final few spots in what might be the most crowded position group on Cleveland's roster.

Why, during this past off-season (FA and Draft), did it seem that so many analysts listed WR as an area of need for the Browns? Didn't they just draft Coleman, Higgins, Louis, and Payton last year and sign Kenny Britt? Thoughts? - Dan N., Seven Hills

The reason why many outside of the organization viewed it as a position of need is simple: lack of experience. The Browns, though, are high on the potential of the group, especially Coleman, the former first-round pick who has been praised for the leadership he's shown since returning for offseason workouts. The addition of Britt helps alleviate the loss of Terrelle Pryor, who led the Browns in all receiving categories last season. The Browns will need more production from Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton. Louis and Higgins had their moments throughout their respective rookie seasons but weren't called upon on a consistent basis because of the players in front of them. That's expected to change in 2017.

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