Two years ago, Cleveland Browns fans were excited for safety John Johnson III to come in and take over the defense. Considered the leader of the Los Angeles Rams stellar unit, Cleveland hoped Johnson would help set things straight for DC Joe Woods.
As all Browns fans can attest, none of that ever happened as Johnson’s defenses were often out of place, struggled with the simple things and rarely were in the right place.
Johnson was released this offseason and remains a free agent while Woods caught on as the defensive coordinator, but not play caller, for the New Orleans Saints.
GM Andrew Berry did hesitate to go back to the well by signing safety Juan Thornhill this offseason. With the Kansas City Chiefs, Thornhill is a two-time Super Bowl champion and has started to leave his mark as a leader in Cleveland. HC Kevin Stefanski noted his pedigree grabbing teammates' attention:
“Players are keenly aware of guys that have Super Bowl rings, and Juan’s had a ton of success,” head coach Kevin Stefanski on July 28 told reporters covering training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. “He’s played at a high level over there in Kansas City. That’s instant credibility with your teammates, and then just to see how he works, he’s a guy that fits in very well with our team, with our guys and with our mentality.”
We asked earlier this offseason who might get the defense’s “green dot” as the play-caller on the field for Schwartz. Anthony Walker has held the role primarily for the last two years despite some discussion of Johnson having the role full-time when he arrived. Stefanski noted the vocal abilities of his veteran safeties:
“I think when you have safeties, you often times hear them, they’re the quarterback of the defense,” Stefanski said. “There’s so much communication that takes place from that position. So to have a guy like Juan, you know Rodney McLeod, Grant as he gets into his third year, you have guys that are very vocal because they’ve played a lot of reps.
The linebacker position is normally the play-caller due to being in the middle of the defense but that is not required. Good communication, an understanding of when to make a change and the ability to do so quickly is the key. Given Stefanski’s comment about the safety position being “the quarterback of the defense,” we could hear soon that Thornhill will be the team’s green dot.
Even if he isn’t, it is great to hear that players are turning an ear to a Super Bowl champion.
Who do you think should be Browns defensive green dot player?