Training camp is set to begin for the Cleveland Browns as they look to jumpstart a new regime manned by head coach Kevin Stefanski. As the roster looks to improve and impress this summer, the Browns feature a variety of young cornerbacks looking to maximize their potential in 2020. The position’s core of players is young as both of the projected starters are in their second and third seasons. While there is veteran depth behind them, both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams will be relied on heavily by Cleveland’s new defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
The projected starting cornerbacks for the Browns in 2020
Denzel Ward looking to take the next step towards being the Browns lockdown corner
The former fourth overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft has lived up to the hype for the Browns thus far. They will be looking for him to take yet another step forward in his domination as a lockdown cornerback in 2020. While he was hurt for the first couple of weeks a year ago, Ward returned with a vengeance after recovering and put together an impressive portfolio of tape to end the season.
Is Ward a top-10 cornerback in the NFL at this point? No, but he is on the brink of cracking that list. Should Ward remain healthy in 2020, it would not be a surprise to see the former Ohio State Buckeye return to the Pro Bowl.
Greedy Williams looking to bounce back in 2020
After falling into the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft after seeing his name as a preseason top-10 overall prospect, Williams struggled as a rookie for the Browns. While Williams does not necessarily have a job locked up as one of the Browns starting CBs, he will be given every opportunity given his status coming out of LSU just a season ago and how he fits in Woods’ scheme.
Playing under former defensive coordinator Steve Wilks last year, as a predominantly Cover-3 type of player, Williams did not get to play to his strengths with frequency. Now under Woods, look for Williams to be in the face of the opposing wide receivers directly at the line of scrimmage, where he can use his length to win in coverage.
Browns veteran cornerbacks to provide depth in 2020
Terrance Mitchell could be on the outside looking in
After being signed by former general manager John Dorsey three offseasons ago, Mitchell enters his third season on the Browns roster. As the Browns enter a new tenure with current GM Andrew Berry, it seems unlikely that Mitchell will survive roster cuts given his fairly significant cap hit of $3.6 million for 2020.
However, Mitchell will have a chance to compete to save his spot. Not only does Mitchell provide a veteran presence within the Browns locker-room, but he also provides experience as a starter. The most realistic role for Mitchell within Wood’s 3-4 defensive scheme, if he remains on the roster, is on the outside when the team transitions into their nickel package where either Williams or Ward would slide into the slot.
Kevin Johnson could find his long-term home in Cleveland
The newest addition to the Browns CB room in 2020 is former first-round pick Kevin Johnson, who is now on his third team in six seasons. Johnson is coming off of a successful 2019 campaign with the Buffalo Bills and now factors in to find the field a significant amount for the Browns.
Johnson will be competing directly with the previously mentioned Mitchell for the right to see action in nickel packages. Johnson, however, brings a bit more versatility to the table to play in the nickel as well, an area Mitchell’s physical limitations will prevent him from playing.
Donovan Olumba may be a training camp body for the Browns
The Browns added another young figure to their CB room during the 2020 offseason with Olumba. Given his low athletic ceiling, as highlighted by his Relative Athletic Score (RAS) and inability to hang around on an active roster through his first two seasons in the league, it seems like Olumba will be a training camp body with the possibility of becoming a potential special teams player for the Browns in 2020.
Tavierre Thomas will reprise his role as a key special teams player for the Browns
Historically, Thomas has only seen the field as a special teams player during his time with the Browns, and his role in 2020 is unlikely to change. While he hasn’t contributed much to the Browns defensively, he is a borderline Pro Bowl special teams talent when reflecting on the effort and efficiency he brings to the special teams’ side of the ball.
Predicting the outcome of the cornerback camp battles
The Browns starting positions at CB are likely set ahead of 2020
The Browns have two young cornerbacks that will play outside of the numbers in 2020, barring an injury or abysmal training camp. There likely will not be any competition for the team’s starting roles with both Ward and Williams returning from that role a year ago.
However, Woods has stated he intends to run a variety of nickel and dime packages this upcoming season. This leaves room for a few more defensive backs to win roles within those packages. The Browns, however, also have a young rookie safety, Grant Delpit, who could land a role in the nickel or dime in 2020.
Mitchell vs. Johnson should be a position battle to watch in Browns camp
If Delpit wins a role in either the nickel or dime, it only leaves one spot open for a significant contributor at CB outside of Ward and Williams. This is where Mitchell and Johnson will compete during training camp, but Johnson enters as the favorite in the position battle.
While both players are the same age (28) and are relatively the same size, Mitchell was signed by the old Browns regime while Johnson was signed by the new one in 2020. Johnson has an overall lower cap hit than Mitchell, even if it is just less than a $1-million difference.
As far as scheme versatility between the two corners, as previously mentioned, Johnson is far more athletic than Mitchell, lending him the upper hand in the way Woods will be able to use him advantageously for the Browns defense in 2020.