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OTAs & Minicamp

Greedy Williams' improvement offers peek at potential of upgraded defense

Greedy Williams' first mandatory minicamp began with a dropped interception.

It came early in Tuesday's practice, also the first minicamp session together for Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. It was Beckham whom Mayfield targeted with this attempt, and their lack of time together showed when Mayfield's pass fell short of Beckham's route run toward the sideline.

With the ball floating and available for the taking, Williams leaped for what should have been an unchallenged pick. He instead dropped it.

A day later, he cut in front of a Mayfield pass and took it the other way, ball securely in hand. Consider it his introduction to the region.

"It is definitely a confidence booster," Williams said Thursday. "That is my first [pick-six] of the camp. I had two [interceptions] on that day, and I came out here with getting interceptions today. Just with that mindset, what your mind tells you, that is what you are going to go do. Just having fun with the game, my confidence and my comfort. Well-equipped and I am ready to rock and roll."

Williams has improved significantly from the start of rookie minicamp to the conclusion of mandatory minicamp. He took his lumps early, something from which he didn't shy away Thursday.

"You get in there and get bombed on a couple times, like my first day of OTAs, it was bad," Williams said. "I was questioning myself, 'am I fit for this?' But as you get going, you get comfortable, you get your confidence back up under you and everything will play out well."

His history of frequent film study and natural ability that made him a first-round projection have combined to help him develop nicely in a relatively short time. He's also had the help of cornerbacks coach DeWayne Walker and one of last year's rookie sensations, Denzel Ward.

The work has shown early results, and it might just be the beginning for an under-the-radar defense that's stocked with talent.

Williams is running with the starters in a secondary that also includes Ward and veteran T.J. Carrie, and a group of safeties that starts with Damarious Randall and Morgan Burnett and continues to Eric Murray, Jermaine Whitehead and rookie Sheldrick Redwine. From there, the Browns have a mix of youth and experience at linebacker with Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, Genard Avery, Adarius Taylor and rookies Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson. The defense gets even stronger up front with a defensive line featuring three Pro Bowlers (Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson) and a potential fourth in Larry Ogunjobi.

Viewing the starting front four in jerseys and shorts is enough to understand how good it could be. Ideally, the Browns want eight or nine quality defensive linemen, a key reason for why they pursued free-agent defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who ultimately signed with the Carolina Panthers. Even without McCoy, it's a very good group that has the potential to transform the defense's reputation in 2019.

"The potential is there. The potential is there," Richardson said Wednesday. "But, like I said, week in and week out, we got to do that. We got to be the best, if that is what you all are predicting us as to be, then we have to go out there and prove that. But, our standard is always going to be higher than you all's (standards)."

The group shifts from a unit heavily relying on Garrett to one that can attack from every alignment. Watching them twist and stunt in jerseys during minicamp was just a small preview of what's possible.

"We had Myles here last year so you get sparks of that for sure," Browns All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio said Thursday, "but then I think you add a couple more guys who have ability in that area so when you have Myles and Larry slanting in and OV (Vernon) coming around the top, it's tough, especially without pads on. You're not really bumping people off. But there's potential for them to do a lot of good things. We'll see as the season goes on. We gotta keep growing and it's good for us as the O-line."

The impact on the offensive line is an added bonus, provided everyone stays healthy. But when the pads come on in late July and into August, we'll get our best look at what this defensive line will bring. It's almost guaranteed to be an upgrade over last year's unit, which would mean a tougher path for opposing runners and more pressure on quarterbacks. The latter could make Williams' learning curve even quicker.

For now, he's just sticking to what he's always done: his homework.

"Just working my way in. Coming in and watching extra film," Williams said when asked what has helped him improve in his first month with the team. "Getting down what I need to do, and I pushed up to the ones, have been practicing well with the ones and I have kind of kept there for a minute. Like I said, all spots are open, and my job is to maintain where I am."

Maintenance is the motto for the next five weeks. Come late July, it'll be time to make plays.

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