On to the defensive backs! We are in the final stretch of our positional previews heading into Cleveland Browns’ training camp. We will begin with the cornerbacks before finishing off with the safeties.
1. Denzel Ward - Rookie/Starting Cornerback
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 190 lbs | Age: 21
Experience: Rookie | College: Ohio State
Gregg Williams’ appeal to the front office this offseason paid off in a major way, as he was able to convince the team to draft Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb with the fourth overall pick of the draft.
Ward is a little undersized, but all of his other skills and level of play more than make up for it. He has proven to be capable of playing tight coverage, the kind where the Browns will be prepared to leave him on an island early and often this season. Ward has the speed and toughness to be a top cornerback, but this training camp, he will need to acclimate to the NFL rules to ensure he isn’t initiating too much contact with receivers.
Pro Football Focus did a great job analyzing the type of route trees that Ward faced at Ohio State and how successful he was against them. One thing that PFF points out for sure is that Ward will not be getting a cakewalk as a rookie; he will be thrown into the fire.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. T.J. Carrie - Competing for Starting Cornerback
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 204 lbs | Age: 28
Experience: 5 years | College: Ohio
One of the Browns’ bigger free agent signings this offseason was T.J. Carrie, who agreed to a 4-year, $31 million deal. He will be making receiver-level money and it was once thought that he would be penciled in to a starting role, but now he is instead going to compete with E.J. Gaines for the other starting cornerback job.
Carrie, a 7th round pick in 2014 with the Oakland Raiders, started all 16 games last year and was regarded as the team’s best cornerback in 2017. Carrie was PFF’s 21st-ranked cornerback a season ago, and he showcased the versatility to play outside cornerback and in the slot. When the Browns signed Carrie, he noted that one of the things he particularly takes pride in is his ability to tackle. Cleveland also wanted to get faster at the cornerback position this year, and Ward, along with Carrie, help with that.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
3. Briean Boddy-Calhoun - Nickelback
Height: 5-9 | Weight: 193 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 3 years | College: Minnesota
The Browns have completely revamped the cornerback position this year, but Briean Boddy-Calhoun is one of the main holdovers. For two years now, I believe he has proven to be an excellent nickelback, playing tight coverage and also delivering some of the team’s better open field tackles. Last year, Pro Football Focus graded Boddy-Calhoun as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL in coverage snaps per receptions allowed.
Opposting quarterbacks also had a passer rating of 70.2 when targeting Boddy-Calhoun, the 18th best mark in the NFL. Overall, he had the second-best grade among Browns defenders in 2017. Cleveland does have a lot of cornerbacks with versatility this year, to where one could argue that Boddy-Calhoun will also be pushed out the door. Instead, I hope that his spot if fully secure, and that the competition really just exists for that other starting cornerback spot, and for the No. 4 cornerback.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
4. E.J. Gaines - Competing for Starting Cornerback
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 191 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 5 years | College: Missouri
Cleveland was able to snag free agent E.J. Gaines on a relatively cheap 1-year, $4 million deal. He started 11 games with the Bills last season, combining for 59 tackles, 9 passes defended, and 1 interception. After working through a thigh injury for much of the 2016 season, Pro Football Focus said that Gaines’ production skyrocketed in 2017.
Reports surfaced a couple of weeks ago that Gaines was a little upset by how the Browns represented themselves when he signed with the club, because he was under the impression that he was (virtually) guaranteed a starting role. Then, the team drafted Denzel Ward, meaning Gaines now has to compete with T.J. Carrie for a starting role. This should be a very tight competition that is up-for-grabs, though, so now is not the time for Gaines to sulk.
Final Roster Odds: 75%
Assume that Denzel Ward starts. Which cornerback will also start between T.J. Carrie and E.J. Gaines?
This poll is closed