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Browns secondary prides itself on non-stop disruption at OTAs

A reporter at Tuesday's OTA noted to coach Mike Pettine that it seemed like the Browns' defensive backs were getting their hands on a lot of passes.

Pettine seemed to agree and offered a simple explanation.

"That's a good group," he said.

It's a good group that believes it can be one of the NFL's best in 2015. The first five OTAs have served as confidence-boosting building blocks toward achieving that goal.

"They put the time in during the meeting room," Pettine said. "It carries over to the individual period, and then you always want to make sure that meeting and individual time translates into the team work, and it has. Those guys are doing a good job, and they're certainly ahead of the curve."

The Browns offense is in the early stages of implementing the changes and wrinkles instituted by new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. The defense, of course, is in Year 2 of Pettine's system, which is being spearheaded by returning defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil and the rest of a staff that was around for all of 2014.

Understandably, there's a difference in the detail -- with the offense working on base installations and the defense honing "graduate-level" concepts -- and Pettine acknowledged as much after Tuesday's OTA. But there's no way the Browns secondary can let themselves go easy on the offense.

They don't know how.

"It is what it is," Haden said. "At the end of the day, we're still going up against receivers no matter who is throwing the ball. We feel like we have one of the best secondaries in the league no matter who is throwing it."

The play-making has gone well beyond the four players who have made at least one Pro Bowl.

Nickel back K'Waun Williams made a number of plays during Tuesday's two-hour session. That should come as little surprise to those who followed the undrafted defensive back from Pittsburgh closely throughout his rookie season, as considered him to be the NFL's sixth-best cover cornerback in 2014. Williams has been guarding the speedy Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel tightly throughout these practices and has made a number of interceptions.

Pettine indicated expectations for Williams are much higher now than they were at this point last year. It's been long forgotten that Williams was a tryout player who worked his way on to the 53-man roster.

"He's a scrappy dude and plays really physical. He's confident," Haden said. "He just knows the game. He takes coaching very well and he's one of the best nickel backs I've seen as far as playing in the slot. He's able to guard the Hawkins and the (Wes) Welkers; those type of guys."

Fellow second-year defensive back Justin Gilbert has drawn similar praise throughout the offseason. Working primarily with the second-team defense, Gilbert has flashed the kind of play-making traits and athleticism that made him a first-round talent in last year's draft.

After a winter that included training with Haden in Miami, Gilbert has backed up his words with actions throughout the offseason workout program, and Pettine is hoping to see even more over the next few weeks and into training camp.

"I definitely see changes, but I think you said it – probably too early. It's just all about consistency. Just coming in here, perfecting his craft every day, and right now, it's so far so good."

When Pettine praised the group during the early portion of his press conference, he first mentioned the newest face in the group, veteran Tramon Williams. His presence has not only taken the pressure off Gilbert and fellow second-year player Pierre Desir, but also Haden, who is spending more time working at different spots on the field, including slot.

The transition has been seamless for a group that was already playing on a high level in 2014.

"With Tramon coming in and being such a vet, he just naturally falls into the room," Haden said. "I think with me and Donte (Whitner) just being here, I feel very comfortable, our coaches feel very comfortable being able to talk to the players.

"We know the system, we know the scheme and everybody just trying to make plays. Very, very competitive."

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