With our cornerback previews complete, it is time to turn our attention to the safety position to finish off the defense. This will be broken down into two parts, starting with Karl Joseph, Grant Delpit, Sheldrick Redwine, and Andrew Sendejo.
1. Karl Joseph - Starting Strong Safety
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 200 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 5 years | College: West Virginia
Karl Joseph was a 1st round pick (14th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Raiders. While he never turned into an elite safety prospect for the Raiders, he was a solid player in general, including last season, when he had the 13th-best run defense grade among safeties, according to Pro Football Focus:
The Browns signed Joseph to a one-year deal to be their starting strong safety. PFF adds that Joseph “has hit double-digit defensive stops every season and shown the ability to be a force on defense, playing particularly well in a coverage scheme using split safeties.”
Joseph had 44 tackles, 3 passes defended, and 1 interception in 9 games last year before a foot injury landed him on injured reserve. Joseph excels the most when he is around the box, and it’ll be refreshing to have a safety again who can come up and be a threat against the run.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. Grant Delpit - Rookie Safety
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 213 lbs | Age: 21
Experience: Rookie | College: LSU
Grant Delpit was the Browns’ second round pick in this year’s draft, addressing the need for a free safety as the team did not re-sign Damarious Randall. Delpit won’t be handed the starting free safety role by any means, but you’d like to see him be able to pick things up quickly for an immediate return on investment. Many Browns fans pegged Delpit to Cleveland heading into the draft, and Dane Brugler had him as his 4th-ranked safety in this year’s class:
A three-year starter at LSU, Delpit was a starting safety in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s scheme, lining up free and strong and as a nickel. He quickly established himself as a face-of-the-program type of leader in Baton Rouge and drew comparisons to Troy Polamalu from his head coach, earning the coveted No. 7 LSU jersey. With his football IQ and athleticism, Delpit is quick to trigger vs. the pass and the run, trusting his keys and never second guessing himself. He often arrives too hot as a tackler and his overaggressive angles and poor finishing skills dent his batting average (there is no question that he was banged up in 2019 and how much that affected his production and performance is open to interpretation). Overall, Delpit needs to shore up his tackling inconsistency, but he is a rangy, smart and energetic player who quickly finds the football and attacks, projecting as an interchangeable NFL safety with starting potential.
We look at everything in this film breakdown from the elite to the ugly.— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) April 26, 2020
Specifically focusing on one key adjustment to his technique that could improve his biggest weakness. https://t.co/sLxzIm4TXd pic.twitter.com/S9BtT3QCIQ
Delpit’s weakness at the college level was his tackling — so much that when he was asked about it after being drafted, he was prepared to make light of it: “I’m so tired of hearing that I can’t tackle. I might tackle you for asking that question (laughter).” The optimists will say that the ankle injuries he played through were a factor.
After drafting him, Browns GM Andrew Berry was asked whether he sees Delpit playing the free safety or the strong safety role. They wouldn’t commit to either, emphasizing that he can play both positions:
“The appeal is that he really does have the modern-day safety skillset from a coverage standpoint because of that versatility. ... It allows you a lot more flexibility as a defensive coordinator when you have a guy who can play the post proficiently, who can play in the line of scrimmage, cover tight ends and play big nickel.”
Pro Football Focus logged that Delpit forced an incompletion at a higher rate than any safety in this year’s class. In 2018, he had 5 interceptions and 7 passes broken up. Despite his tackling issues, though, the amount of run stops he had compared to other safeties speaks volumes about his versatility and ability to be an X-factor on the field:
Grant Delpit stands out for more than just his coverage ability. He had almost twice as many career run-stops as the next closest top safety in this year’s draft. pic.twitter.com/IRJrFheWyh— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) April 25, 2020
I’m expecting Delpit to be the Browns’ starting free safety in Week 1.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. Sheldrick Redwine - Backup Safety
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 196 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Miami
While the Browns added two new starting safeties this year, their depth is also pretty decent now. Sheldrick Redwine is the only returning regular contributor from a season ago at the position, which makes sense considering he was a 4th round pick. He played in 383 snaps on the year, which was 35.3% of the team’s defensive snaps. His action was more toward the back half of the season; he finished with 35 tackles, 2 passes defended, and 5 tackles & 2 assists on special teams. Pro Football Focus picked him as a player who could shine this season:
Redwine flashed when he got on the field. He played only 374 snaps but had a 68.4 PFF coverage grade, a pair of pass breakups and two excellent games within the division against the Bengals and Steelers.
I thought Redwine showed some nice skills in coverage last year, but his tackling was an issue, missing more than a handful of tackles. If he wraps up better, then he has an outside shot at competing with Delpit for a starting role, should the rookie be slow out of the gate.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
4. Andrew Sendejo - Backup Veteran Safety
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 210 lbs | Age: 32
Experience: 10 years | College: Rice
Last, but not least, is veteran Andrew Sendejo, who has been in the league since 2010. He was a member of the Minnesota Vikings for the past 9 seasons, so that means he knows everyone but the defensive coordinator as far as coaches go. In a reserve role last year, he had 45 tackles, 1 sack, 4 passes defended, and 3 interceptions. While Sendejo struggled early in his career in coverage, he has been fantastic in that area for the past 3 years:
Sendejo struggled in coverage early in his career but has looked like a completely different player since. His coverage grade jumped to 89.7 over the last three years and he made 16 plays on the ball (six interceptions and 10 forced incompletions) while allowing just 3 TDs https://t.co/bC6uaLxMYi— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) March 19, 2020
Sendejo gives the Browns options at the safety position. Ideally, Joseph and Delpit will start, and then Sendejo can be a rotational player to sub in at either position and have an impact. But if Delpit and Redwine don’t impress the coaching staff enough, Cleveland could opt to go with both veterans at the start of the season.
Final Roster Odds: 99%
Who will the Browns’ starting safeties be in Week 1?
This poll is closed
Karl Joseph, Grant Delpit
Karl Joseph, Sheldrick Redwine
Karl Joseph, Andrew Sendejo
Grant Delpit, Andrew Sendejo
Grant Delpit, Sheldrick Redwine
Sheldrick Redwine, Andrew Sendejo