Cleveland Browns: All quiet, for now, on the safety front
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns have been quiet about the battle at safety during training camp, but that will change once the preseason starts.
On a team with 14 draft picks joining 16 second-year players, it can be easy to be overlooked.
Even so, the safety position for the Cleveland Browns has been particularly quiet during the first 10 of training camp, especially for a team that is looking to replace both of its starting safeties from 2015.
The Browns entered camp with Ibraheim Campbell, a fourth-round draft pick in 2015, and Jordan Poyer, a seventh-round selection in 2013, as the presumptive favorites. They are joined by Pierre Desir, who spent the past two years at cornerback, Derrick Kindred, a fourth-round pick this year, and Rahim Moore, a free agent pickup, among others competing for playing time.
With so many unknowns on the back end of the defense, the coaching staff has been busy, if not overly vocal, about the work being done.
“Right now, we have guys moving around in different spots,” defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi said. “I think as we go through these games, it will all play itself out. They’ll continue to work. We’ve drafted obviously at that position, and at the end of the day, the best players will play.
“We’ve drafted obviously at that position, and at the end of the day, the best players will play.” – DB coach Louie Cioffi
“We have a few guys (such as Desir) that we’re playing kind of as hybrids. The reason you do that, in this league with all the multiple wide receiver sets, a guy that has a skillset at corner when you’re playing a team that puts three wide receivers on the field, in order to move a guy like that inside at safety it gives you a better chance to win on an every down basis.”
Versatility is one of the touch points of defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s system, and one that the presumptive starters are embracing.
“I see myself as someone who can play down in the box, really create turnovers in the box, whether that be forcing fumbles, whatever,” Campbell said. “Also, I play high, but at the free safety position being able to break on balls and catch interceptions, as well. I think my versatility is probably one of my biggest strengths.”
“I think all of our safeties are playing a role going down into the box and playing high,” Poyer echoed. “I think everybody can do both. Both different keys, but I think the versatility of our safeties, we should be able to play both positions.”
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While being able to move players around to counter (or confuse) the defense is a nice trait for a defense to have, the safeties need to know where the man next to them is and build a sense of trust, which can only come from playing together.
That is why it is encouraging to hear that Campbell and Poyer, while not guaranteed starting spots, are working together with the mindset that they will be lining up with the first team when the season opens on Sept. 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“We’ve been really focusing on building each other up as a team and on and off the field and I think it’s really starting to show,” Campbell said. “It also makes the on the field experiences that much better when you’re doing things, gelling well, all those types of things. It creates a great environment for the team.”
“Me and (Ibraheim), we watch a lot of film together,” Poyer explained. “He came in last year, and I think me and him kicked it off really well. He’s a smart football player, and I think we both kind of take the film room pretty seriously. I think our chemistry has come along really well. Obviously, we both have got a lot of work to do, but I enjoy playing alongside of him.”
For a team that has had more than its share of controversy, negativity and just general nonsense in recent years, having a quiet but productive training camp battle among one of the position groups is refreshing.
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That will all start to change, of course, starting Friday night when the Browns open the preseason with a game against the Green Bay Packers. Once everyone has a chance to see the safeties in action against another team, the noise surrounding the position will only start to increase.
Whether that is a good thing or not will be revealed in the coming weeks.