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Martin Emerson Jr. leans into spirit of an eagle as he prepares for third season with the Browns

Emerson played an integral role in Browns’ defensive success during the 2023 season

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As CB Martin Emerson Jr. wrapped up his Browns media day session, he wanted one last picture with a special piece of jewelry. He pulled out a chain with a pendant of an eagle's head, clasped it around his neck and posed.

The eagle holds a certain significance to Emerson. It first started with the mascot of his high school, Pine Forest High School, in Pensacola, Fla. Yet, its meaning extends past the connection to his high school.

"The top of the food chain is the eagle, and only eagles fly with certain eagles," Emerson said. "So, I just look at myself as an eagle."

That mentality shapes his outlook as he enters his third season with the Browns and in the league. He played an important role in the secondary's success during the 2023 season, as he led the team with four interceptions for 24 yards and tied the team lead with 14 passes defended. Emerson also recorded 59 tackles, one tackle for loss and started 12 of the 16 games he played in during the 2023 season.

Yet, he didn't always play on the defensive side of the ball. When Emerson was in high school, he dreamed of playing quarterback or wide receiver. But his head coach Jason McDonald had different plans. McDonald moved Emerson to the secondary, and specifically to cornerback.

The switch paid off.

Emerson said a few weeks later, he began receiving college offers. Emerson committed to Mississippi State and played three seasons with the Bulldogs, where he tallied 154 tackles, six tackles for loss, one interception, 16 pass breakups and one forced fumble.

"I tell him to this day, 'I appreciate you; you saw it in me,'" Emerson said. "And I'm thankful that I made that switch."

The Browns then drafted Emerson in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Now in his third year in the NFL, he wants to take the next step – both individually and as a team.

"I feel like each year I show tremendous improvement," Emerson said. "But there's also places in my game where I can just get better. This year, I want to come and build off last year. The sky's the limit when I think about this group. I just want to take it to our full potential and just reach our full potential because we work so hard. We put in the work, and I just want to show the world that the Browns are a contender."

With that goal in mind, Emerson said he focused his offseason on flexibility and speed, building up his wind for the regular season.

He also worked closely with veteran cornerback Denzel Ward during the offseason. Ward said Emerson was on his hip throughout the spring and summer months, learning from and spending time with Ward.

Emerson traveled to Florida and stayed with Ward to train. Ward had opened the invitation to all the Browns corners to come visit and train with him, and Emerson took him up on his offer. Ward said they worked out every day together, focusing on their techniques and lifting.

Over the three days of minicamp, Emerson displayed that speed in his ability to defend and break up passes. He broke up a pass intended for TE David Njoku during a 7-on-7 red zone drill on the final day of camp, as well as tightly defended a reception made by WR Cedric Tillman in the end zone.

Cornerbacks coach Brandon Lynch saw a level of consistency from Emerson throughout OTAs and minicamp, which impressed him.

"I know that we talk a lot about versatility, but really consistency and being available," Lynch said. "He's an extremely tough young guy who's accountable. He's resilient to the details, and he shows it on display."

The Browns have a talented cornerback room led by Ward and Greg Newsome II. Yet, Emerson has developed over the last two seasons to play an important role as he's learned from the veterans in the room. And Ward sees potential for Emerson as he steps into his third season with the Browns.

"He's a special player," Ward said. "Got high talent, physical player, tall. I mean, he's got the capability of achieving a lot of things in his league, like being an All-Pro type of player and a number one corner."

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