Cleveland Browns' cornerbacks were getting burned by the deep ball at an unprecedented rate last year. With virtually no changes at the position heading into 2016, you would think that the team's cornerback ranking by Pro Football Focus would be pretty gloomy. Instead, they have the Browns ranked as the 16th-best cornerback group in the NFL.
The site primarily focuses on the trio of Joe Haden, Tramon Williams, and K'Waun Williams. Although they note a key stat of Haden allowing a career-high 158.2 passer rating in 2015, it sounds like they suspect he will rebound in 2016, despite coming off of ankle surgery:
Struggling through injuries, Joe Haden allowed as many touchdowns (four) on 31 targets last season as he had surrendered on 113 targets a year before. A fully healthy and on-form Haden puts the rest of this Browns’ secondary in a position to succeed, with K’Waun Williams proving to be one of the league’s best slot corners over the last two seasons.
K'Waun has been consistent, so there's no knock on him there. However, with Ray Horton not having worked with him before, you never know what will happen at the nickelback spot. Tramon had a fair start to 2015 before he crash-landed in terms of production, and on Wednesday, he spoke out about last season wearing on him and how the new coaching staff will turn things around:
"It was real difficult," Williams said on Wednesday prior to the second practice of the team's minicamp. "For the most part, halfway through the year I was still kind of getting adjusted to (losing), but later on in the year starts to kind of wear on you in different ways, just pulling from different ways, just with frustration, you being out there trying to do more than you want to, just trying to make something happen at some point and it don't get no better."
"I think with the new coaching staff, the moves that's been made over this offseason, I think it's brought a lot of energy and a sense of confidence and peace to a lot of those young guys," he said.
There is no doubt this group has the talent to be a very respectable unit. They've also invested in some younger talent over the past couple of years -- Justin Gilbert, Pierre Desir, and Charles Gaines. The production hasn't been what one would've hoped for from that group, but maybe Horton will help them blossom to improve the back-end of the depth chart, to the point where somebody can be groomed to replace Tramon one day.