Greg Newsome II says possible slot CB role 'a benefit toward me'

Newsome was taking first-team snaps in the slot on Day 2 of OTAs

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Greg Newsome II sure sounds like a cornerback ready to take an expanded role in the Browns defense in 2022.

That role for Newsome could be on the inside. He took snaps in the slot on Day 2 of OTAs and listed several reasons why he'd be excited to play the position in his second NFL season.

"I think it's a benefit toward me," he said Wednesday at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. "I'll be able to be around the ball a lot more. I'm definitely liking the inside. It's going to be fun. I think I'll be able to make some more plays, get some sacks and things like that."

Newsome, the Browns' 2021 first-round pick, primarily played outside as a rookie but was the backup slot option for CB Troy Hill, whom the Browns traded to the Rams during the 2022 draft for a 2023 fifth-round pick. Newsome started learning the position in training camp last year after he sparingly played it in college at Northwestern, and the work paid off in the regular season — his versatility was one reason why his snap totals increased throughout the year.

A slot corner is usually one of the bigger cornerbacks on the field, and Newsome is doing what he can to gain a little extra weight. He's aiming to grow from 192 to 195 pounds by the start of the season and have "a little more armor," and he's also kept in touch with Hill for pointers at the position even though they're on different defenses.

"Nickel is one of the hardest positions in football," Newsome said. "You have to be intelligent in order to play that position. I just think with my body type a little bit bigger, and I'm agile to move, so I can guard those smaller receivers. I think I will definitely be fine in the nickel."

Check out photos of players and coaches working throughout the offseason

Other challenges slot corners face include dealing with more traffic in the middle of the field, although Newsome believes that can be a benefit — the traffic comes from linebackers and other potential secondary players who can help. Slot corners can often line up against the top receiver of an opponent, too, but Newsome already did that several times in his first season and fared well. He was third on the Browns last year with nine pass breakups and counted a few of them against top opposing receivers.

"You're around the ball a lot more," Newsome said. "I think (that'll help) my production, and I'd be able to make a few more plays in the slot. I'll get a few blitzes. There's some things I'm definitely looking forward to."

Don't pencil in Newsome just yet as a lock to be the main slot CB.

Coach Kevin Stefanski said the Browns will give other cornerbacks reps at the position, too. Everyone in the room could take turns at the position in practice throughout OTAs and training camp as the Browns look to maximize one of their deepest positions on the roster. Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, A.J. Green and third-round rookie Martin Emerson Jr. round out the top of the group, and it'll be worth examining if any of them are given prolonged looks at the role in future practices.

But for now, it appears Newsome is among the frontrunners.

"He's a smart player," Stefanski said. "Intelligence is a premium when you are there because you have to be able to fit the runs, you have to be able to pressure, play man and play zone. He's physically built to play inside or outside. He's somebody who we will continue to work in there, and really among a bunch of different guys who will work in there."

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