Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry made changes this offseason at almost every level of the defense in an attempt to rebuild a unit that too often held the team back in 2022.
While hiring defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz may be the best move of the offseason, and adding defensive end Za’Darius Smith as a pass-rush partner to Myles Garrett has a lot of potential, signing safety Juan Thornhill in free agency should not be overlooked.
Thornhill brings championship experience from the Kansas City Chiefs after playing in nine playoff games, including two Super Bowls. He also represents an upgrade, especially in coverage, over John Johnson III, who often struggled with being in the right place during his two seasons with the Browns.
Finally, Thornhill brings some much-needed energy to the defense and is not afraid to talk up his fellow defensive backs as he did at training camp on Friday. With the team finally putting the pads on and getting ready to hit this weekend it will represent an opportunity for the secondary to show what it can do, according to Thornhill (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“I mean, guys can make a lot of plays out there when you don’t have the shoulder pads on because you can’t be touched. I’m talking about the receivers. And then also some guys that you don’t think look as good at a DB spot is because they can’t get their hands on the receivers. But as soon as you put those pads on, they start to show up. So I think us putting our pads on is definitely going to show what we really have and we’ll get a good feel for it probably tomorrow.
“I’m always ready. I’m not backing down on hitting.”
Thornhill’s enthusiasm has not been lost on the coaching staff, as head coach Kevin Stefanski said on Friday that he can feel the enthusiasm emanating from the backend of the defense (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“I think when you have safeties, you oftentimes hear them, the quarterback of the defense, and there’s so much communication that takes place from that position. So to have a guy like Juan, you know a Rodney McLeod, Grant (Delpit) as he gets into his third year, you have guys that are very vocal because they’ve played a lot of reps. And certainly Juan, with the amount of games that he’s played, the big games that he’s played, you certainly feel that.”
The hitting begins Saturday at 10:30 am for the Browns and Thornhill is ready to start showing everyone what the secondary is capable of this season.