Two days of defensive position group analysis are in the books. We've got one more to tackle today before it's on to the offense.
We're looking at the Browns secondary, a group that carried high expectations but ultimately struggled in a year filled with injuries to most of its key members.
The Raw Data
Donte Whitner - 14 games, 81 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 passes defensed
Tramon Williams - 15 games, 69 tackles, INT, 10 passes defensed
Tashaun Gipson - 13 games, 60 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 passes defensed
K'Waun Williams - 13 games, 38 tackles, sack, 2 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries
Jordan Poyer - 14 games, 37 tackles, sack, 2 INTs, 4 passes defensed, fumble recovery
Pierre Desir - 14 games, 36 tackles, 5 passes defensed
Joe Haden - 5 games, 22 tackles, 2 passes defensed, fumble recovery
Charles Gaines - 6 games, 15 tackles, 2 passes defensed, forced fumble
Johnson Bademosi - 16 games, 10 tackles, 2 passes defensed, fumble recovery
Ibraheim Campbell - 15 games, 10 tackles
Justin Gilbert - 9 games, 4 tackles, pass defensed
De'Ante Saunders - 1 game, tackle
Others on the roster
Pass defense - 251 yards per game - 22nd
Interceptions - 11 - T-21st
Opponents' passer rating - 101.8 - 30th
(According to Spotrac.com, the following players contracts will expire at the start of the new league year in March)
Who's in charge now?
Defensive backs coach - Louie Cioffi - (24 years experience, 22 in NFL)
Assistant defensive backs coach - Cannon Matthews - (9 years experience, 8 in NFL)
Quote to note
"The season didn't go the way we wanted. I know everyone is tired of hearing it, but we have next year. That is one of the things that as cliché as it may sound, I will be excited to be here if I am here. If not, I still will always wish and hope that the Browns have success because they deserve it." - Gipson
The Browns home opener didn't feature any interceptions from the Browns secondary, but it marked what would be, in hindsight, a memorable accomplishment for the group. For one of the last times all season, the starting four -- plus Williams at nickel -- were healthy and disruptive in a game that saw Cleveland keep Tennessee's Marcus Mariota from doing too much damage. The next week, Cleveland would be without K'Waun Williams. Then Haden went down with his first of two significant injuries. Then Gipson. It became a never-ending string of injury issues for a unit that was the strength of Cleveland's defense one year earlier. On this day, it was a rare glimpse of what could have been.
The Browns were as banged up as they'd be all season, and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, in an unexpected relief appearance, took full advantage. The Steelers wound up accumulating 399 passing yards -- and many more on lengthy pass interference penalties -- in a 30-9 victory against the Browns, who were without Haden and Whitner and used a young rotation at the cornerback spot opposite of Tramon Williams against Pittsburgh's dynamic group of wide receivers.
After a so-so start to training camp, Browns coaches wondered if Gaines would make the cut for the 53-man roster. By the end of August, Cleveland not only knew it wanted Gaines on its roster, but used the valuable "injured reserve - designated to return" tag on him when he injured his hamstring during the Browns' third preseason game. Gaines' return at the midway point of the season was rocky at the start against Pittsburgh, but he recovered and ultimately assumed the starting role opposite of Williams by the end of the season. The sixth-round selection carries plenty of confidence and was praised for his ability to recover and move on to the next play. He'll have higher expectations surrounding him entering his second season.
Outlook for 2016
The impact of Haden was clear the moment he went down with his first of two injuries. The Browns never really found an answer at the cornerback spot opposite of Williams, a veteran who was forced to take on opponents' No. 1 receivers when Haden was out. What happens with Gipson will dictate a lot when it comes to how the Browns approach free agency and the draft. K'Waun Williams carries as much promise as anyone in the secondary and is a surefire option at the nickel spot, especially when the cornerbacks around him are playing at a high level. The 2015 season was a humbling experience for every member of this group. There will be no shortage of motivation to bounce back under two familiar faces, defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Cioffi.