The Browns retooled their secondary during the offseason. Out went Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty, the starters from last year. Cleveland added Damarious Randall in a trade, selected Denzel Ward with the fourth pick of the draft, acquired numerous free agents and moved Jabrill Peppers to a new safety position.
With all these new faces in the defensive backfield, one player stayed put: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, an undrafted free agent who landed on the Browns roster in 2016 when the team claimed him off waivers the day after he was cut by Jacksonville. If you think he's past the fact that he went undrafted, you're wrong. He's got "undrafted" tattooed on his arm. Now, he's a leader.
"I'm still looking for guys to go to, but all my big homies, they're gone," Boddy-Calhoun said. "So I guess I am the one to lead and take charge and lead this group."
Randall and Peppers are both switching positions, but they're moving to spots they played in college. Meanwhile, Boddy-Calhoun is just a versatile guy. He can tackle near the line of scrimmage; he's had 82 tackles in the last two seasons. He can pick off the passer; he had 17 pass deflections in his career and three interceptions in 2016, one of which went for a touchdown.
How did Boddy-Calhoun remain on a roster that was completely retooled by general manager John Dorsey?
"He's a plug-and-play kind of guy," Randall said of Boddy-Calhoun. "He can play corner, slot, safety. Those guys are invaluable to the team because you never know what could happen. You know you can only dress 46 and one play, one guy could go down, and the next play, another guy goes down. Now you need some of those plug-and-play type guys."
With the wide range of skills, Boddy-Calhoun creates a challenge for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, assistant defensive backs coach Jerod Kruse and the rest of the defensive staff. They have to decide where to put him, when to use him and how he fits. It's a good problem to have. Throughout training camp, Boddy-Calhoun has played nickel and free safety, the latter of which is relatively new for him. He said the key to that position is to let the quarterback take you to the ball rather than playing against the routes.
Williams' defense isn't easy to grasp. There are schemes and fits to learn, as well as motion shifts and defensive back movement. Most guys have to learn two positions and all of their nuances. Boddy-Calhoun, however, learns three or four. It takes a football mind to learn those. Luckily, he's got it.
"To do things like that, you have to be very football savvy and very football smart," Randall said. "It's not easy to go from nickel one play to safety the next play to corner the next play. That's not something that is easy to do."
Playing them is one thing. Being successful in all spots is another. He's a proven commodity. Boddy-Calhoun has been able to survive the roster overhaul with his play and versatility, but his demeanor on the field never changes. He's a fun guy on the field, bringing energy and providing laughs -- most of the time.
In the heat of practice Tuesday, Boddy-Calhoun was involved in a little altercation with linebacker Brady Shelton. After the incident, they shook hands and kept playing. It was an intense moment during an intense practice, but they're teammates. It showed Boddy-Calhoun's ability to show fire while playing at such a high level. After all, he was undrafted. And that's stuck with him.
"My main goal going into a training camp will always be to make the team," he said. "I will always go in there with an undrafted mindset."