With the departure of veteran SS and local product, Donte Whitner, let’s take a look at the player I currently consider the best SS on the roster for the Cleveland Browns. Many have criticized the timing of Whitner's release by the Browns FO, but what I don't question is that they knew exactly what they had in the rookie Campbell and weren't worried about losing a step on the field when they jettisoned the aging, overpaid and under-performing veteran.
The majority of Campbell's playing time at SS came in the preseason as well as weeks 8 and 9 when Donte Whitner was sidelined with an injury. So in the big picture, we've hardly seen enough of Ibraheim Campbell to know how his success in limited snaps last season will project to a full season. However, much like scouting a college player, we can glean a lot by identifying the traits we see on film and how consistently they are demonstrated. When watching the film below, look for the things that he does well and then ask yourself if those traits are consistently shown or if they are just flashes from time to time. Among the 12 plays I take a look (which were almost every non special teams snap I could find when searching NFLRewind) I think you will see consistent traits that reflect a starting "in-box" NFL SS. What excites me about Campbell is that with more coaching and reps, I think you see him take a big step this offseason and lock down the starting job and never look back.
Like all NFL teams, the upcoming draft will shake up the roster competition in Cleveland and even if the Browns select Jalen Ramsey with the 2nd pick (there are those out there that have adamantly suggested this) he’ll most likely be playing FS which allows Campbell to compete against whoever else is added for camp. I might also add that if the Browns do take Ramsey at 2, he'll be the second safety ever taken with the second pick overall - the only other being Eric Turner. I'm also not convinced the team places a high enough value on the safety position to draft a FS at #2 overall, but I digress.
The above chart is from Campbell's testing at the NFL Combine. You can see that he didn't complete the full gambit of drills. You can toggle between the graph view and the measurables & comparisons view - which interestingly enough includes a 75% match with hard hitting former Cleveland Brown, TJ Ward.
Campbell later completed the 40 yard dash, 3 cone, the short shuttle, broad jump, vertical jump and long shuttle drills at his pro day with the following results below. Campbell has good strength, decent speed and agility, but wouldn't be considered the most explosive player.
Campbell's is just scratching the surface in terms of his potential. In his limited snaps last year in his rookie campaign his confidence grew and his ability to quickly process the game and make decisions was consistently on display. In action at "in box" SS vs. Arizona and Cincinnati, he constantly showed the ability to diagnose plays and hold the edge, coupled with the willingness to step up into running lanes and finish tackles with authority. Campbell is an efficient tackler and has the speed needed to chase down runners in the open field. He showcases smooth yet powerful footwork along with the taking proper angles while in pursuit.
All in all, Campbell has what it takes to become a solid starting SS in the NFL. I think we could also see him used in certain sub-packages as a CB, but based on what I saw last season, and provided we don't draft a SS that can step right in and win the role, I think he finds a home as the starting SS for the 2016 Cleveland Browns and beyond.
* Note: when these clips are done, click the "replay" icon in the bottom left corner to watch again*
1. Here we see IC in action against the pass, recognizing the WR screen, closing in quickly and wrapping up Marvin Jones before he can get free and grab yardage inside the red zone.
2. What I love about this play is NOT the whiff by Gipson, rather the chase down of speedy Bengals RB Giovanni Bernard all the way from the other side of the field. Campbell doesn't over-pursue here, he steps up into the alley to force Bernard back outside, but can recover to the outside to make the play using his speed.
3. Here you can see IC step up and slide outside enough to hold the edge of the running lane, then shed the block from Larry Fitzgerald, re-set his feet and explode to finish the tackle on Chris Johnson.
4. Again, Campbell making a play from across the field, this time in the open field against Larry Fitzgerald. What I love about this is that IC doesn't bite on the fake from Fitz, he holds his edge on the inside contain, and when Fitz steps inside, he picks him up and pile drives him to the turf.
5. Don't bother shopping in the B gap, because that's IC territory. A great example of Campbell diagnosing the run, taking an outside-in angle, essentially forcing the running inside, and stepping up to deliver a sure, big hit on Chris Johnson.
6. This play is very similar to play 5, however now the Cardinals are nearly in the red zone. Campbell once again quickly diagnoses the run here while simultaneously stepping up and taking an outside-in angle to plug the lane and finish the tackle with great technique and power.
7. At this point in preseason Jeremy Langford wasn't on anybody's fantasy roster or really on most of our radars as a legit NFL RB, but that would quickly change as Chicago gave him the reins as the season progressed. My point is that he's talented and fast, and here you can see Campbell doing a good job to chase him down in the open field and make the stop along the side lines while attempting to strip the ball. Most rookies might just try to push him out of bounds or make the big hit, but IC has the IQ to go for the ball. While this trait is taught, it doesn't always translate.
8. Here's a different look from Campbell, this time in coverage in the red zone vs. Washington in the preseason. The Browns try to rush 5 maybe 6 guys (but they run into eachother) but get very little pressure on Cousins who delivers the ball across the middle to a wide open WR. Campbell sees the play, is in position over the middle, steps up, sets his feet and delivers a wrap-up hit that drives the receiver back and allows LB help to arrive, thus stopping a TD.
9. Watch how quickly IC diagnoses this play. It's fun to watch as he steps up and finishes this goal line tackle vs. Buffalo.
10. Here we see IC vs. Jeremy Hill in the open field on a screen pass. Campbell shows great hips here, opening up smoothly and quickly going lateral to cover his responsibility in the flat. If you stop around 27 seconds, you'll notice IC is aligned on the outside shoulder of Hill, so even if he was already facing upfield, Campbell would be forcing him back inside towards help. But help isn't needed as IC wraps up the big RB and drives him back for a minimal gain.
11. Here we see Campbell doing a great job of not biting on the inside fake. If you stop this at 19 seconds, you'll notice his feet are set, he's not leaning or cheating, he's holding his responsibility and and is once again forcing the play back towards help. He then helps finish the tackle in the open field. At the end of the play you'll also notice Danny Shelton's patented: JOP move or "Jump On Pile"
12. Another example of IC diagnosing the play quickly, taking the outside-in angle, stepping up and delivering a sure / powerful tackle in the red zone. I'm a fan.
Campbell is a powerful and smooth athlete with great recognition, good closing speed and a high football IQ. He pops of the screen in run support and on a few occasions when asked to drop back in zone coverage or cover man to man on in flat against a RB, you see flashes of his ability to support against the pass. He's an aggressive finisher in the red zone who takes smart angles and stays true to his responsibilities. From the film examples above I believe you can clearly see starting SS traits on display and it should be fun seeing exactly how Horton wants to utilize him. With his rookie season behind him and extended offseason reps / coaching on the horizon, I think we're beginning to see a young, confident and talented player come into his own.