Browns rookies got their first taste of NFL life last weekend in a three-day minicamp. For those on defense, it also served as an introduction to Gregg Williams.
“I gave him a nickname when he first started talking, G-Will,” said defensive end Chad Thomas, a third-round pick from Miami.
“He’s a gangster. His style of coaching, his demanding style, being on top of us, trying to make us excel as young men, it’s just good. I love it. I love that style of coaching.”
Indeed, Williams, Cleveland’s fiery, ultra-intense defensive coordinator, has already made an impression on the team’s rookie class, which includes draft picks in Thomas, cornerback Denzel Ward (the No. 4 overall pick), linebacker Genard Avery and cornerback Simeon Thomas.
To a man, they’ve heard stories about Williams’ tough-love approach, his attacking defenses and track record of success.
“He definitely seems like a very passionate coach,” said Ward, the former Ohio State star. “He reminds me a little bit of (former Ohio State cornerbacks coach and current Titans assistant) coach (Kerry) Coombs. I’m definitely excited to be working with him.”
“A great guy, very intense,” Avery (a fifth-round pick from Memphis) said, laughing. “He’s a good person. He means a lot. He just wants the best for this organization.”
“He's a very interesting guy. He ain't gonna sugarcoat it,” said Simeon Thomas, a sixth-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette. “He’ll tell you how it is … when I left this place, I just remembered coach Williams. We hit it off real good.”
Williams, who joined Cleveland’s staff shortly after the 2016 season, helped transform both the Browns' culture and run defense in 2017 and will look to do the same with the secondary moving forward. This year’s class of defenders join a young and promising crew that includes Myles Garrett, Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jabrill Peppers and Damarious Randall, the talented free safety whom the team acquired in a trade with Green Bay two months ago.
Ward, Cleveland’s third first-round pick on defense in two years, is expected to compete for a starting spot while Chad Thomas could quickly join the team’s defensive line rotation. Avery and Simeon Thomas hope to first earn their keep on special teams.
Over the coming weeks and months, the newest Browns will continue to develop those relationships with Williams and Cleveland’s defensive staff.
So far, they know what the veteran coordinator expects.
“If coach tells me to do it,” Chad Thomas said. “I’m gonna do it.”