The Browns are about a month removed from the 2022 season and are making plans for improvements in 2023. Doing so, however, will require looking back at how each position fared, and we'll be doing that ourselves at ClevelandBrowns.com with a comprehensive breakdown of each spot on the roster.
Next up: the safeties
The Raw Numbers
Pass defense: 196.2 (5th in NFL)
Passing TDs allowed: 20 (T-5th best in NFL)
John Johnson III: 17 games, 101 tackles, 1 interception, 0.5 sack, 4 TFLs, 4 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles,
Grant Delpit: 17 games, 105 tackles, 4 interceptions, 10 pass breakups, 4 TFLs
Ronnie Harrison Jr.: 16 games, 24 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 pass breakup
D'Anthony Bell: 16 games, 14 tackles
Analysis in 150 Words or Less
The Browns' top safeties played a key role in what statistically appeared to be a strong season by the secondary, but the group's year was clouded by a few costly big plays from blown coverages that cost the Browns games. The one that stung most was in Week 2, when the Browns allowed the Jets to hit on two passing touchdowns with less than two minutes remaining to steal a win. The Browns also allowed big pass plays on broken coverages against the Panthers, Patriots and Bengals in their second matchup in Week 14. Still, the safeties finished the season strong, and they were led by Delpit, who snagged three interceptions in the last three games and appeared to find another step in his game late in the year. He also led the defense in tackles and played all 17 games for the first time in his career.
The best game from a safety all season was Delpit's two-pick game in Week 17 against the Commanders. Both passes were on deep pass attempts from QB Carson Wentz, but Delpit was in good position to reach into the air and snag them both. They were Delpit's last two interceptions of the season, ensuring he'd finish the season with three picks in the last three games and end his third NFL season with a career-high four interceptions. Delpit and Johnson also combined for 14 tackles in one of the Browns' strongest defensive games of the year.
The loss to the Jets was about as painful as it gets for any defense, and the Jets' comeback all started because of a blown 66-yard touchdown by the secondary. Delpit and CB Denzel Ward were the two closest defenders to WR Corey Davis when he caught a pass from QB Joe Flacco and had an easy walk into the end zone, a play that resulted due to miscommunication from the defense. That set the Jets up for an onside kick, which they recovered and proceeded to tear through the defense again in the final 80 seconds for a game-winning touchdown.
Who's Back for 2023?
Delpit, Johnson and Bell are all under contract for 2023.
Who's a Potential Free Agent?
Harrison is the only safety who could become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Delpit's continued growth will continue to be a big factor in how well the safeties perform next season. New additions could join him and Johnson in the room, too, depending on what the Browns do with Harrison's free agent status, and Bell — an undrafted rookie who made the team after training camp last season — could also receive more defensive looks after playing most of his first season on special teams. Safety isn't the Browns' top position of need, but it's certainly one that could see another key addition or two as the defense takes shape under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
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