PFF not very high on Cleveland Browns secondary
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns secondary struggled in 2016, which is reflected in their low positional ranking by Pro Football Focus.
The Cleveland Browns have done a lot of work in the offseason to fix their broken defense, which was statistically one of the worst in the NFL in 2016.
In is defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, taking over for the ineffective Ray Horton. The Browns also added defensive end Myles Garrett as the No. 1 overall selection in the draft, will have former linebacker Jamie Collins for a full season, and should see continued improvement from defensive lineman Danny Shelton, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and linebacker Christian Kirksey.
Related: Can the Browns rely on Joe Haden in 2017?
Then there is the secondary, which according to the positional rankings at Pro Football Focus, is not a bright spot for the club, checking in at No. 27:
"The Browns would love to get rookie first round pick Jabrill Peppers signed and on the field as much as possible this year, but for 2017 expect recent addition Calvin Pryor to be the starting strong safety. In three years with the Jets, he successfully defended just six of 99 throws into his coverage, and missed a total of 38 tackles. Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty should help the cornerback group, as Taylor had an overall grade of 82.0 last year with the Browns while McCourty had two picks and eight pass break-ups in Tennessee. Fans in Cleveland will also hope for an improved season from CB Joe Haden, who finished with a 46.0 overall grade, or 88th overall at the position last year."
That all sounds very troublesome, especially when you consider that the Browns have to face Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers (75 receptions, 1,130 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 career games vs. Cleveland) and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals (52-824-6 in 11 career games) twice a season.
However, all hope is not lost.
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Cornerback Jamar Taylor figured things out last season after coming over from the Miami Dolphins in a draft day trade, and Jason McCourty, signed in free agency this year from the Tennessee Titans, should still have a good year or two left in him.
While Joe Haden is likely past his Pro Bowl form, if he is healthy then he should at least be a stabilizing presence at one cornerback position.
Related: PFF selects Jamar Taylor as a secret superstar
At safety, it may take first-round selection Jabrill Peppers some time to adjust to the pro game, but he is arguably the most athletic safety the Browns have had since their return to the NFL in 1999. There is also the possibility, albeit a slim one, that a change of scenery could help Calvin Pryor, acquired in a trade with the New York Jets, the same way it did for Taylor.
The best thing going for the secondary might be the changes we highlighted at the top of the story.
Williams is unquestionably a better coordinator than Horton, which should count for something on the field this fall. And if the defensive front seven can realize its potential and start harassing opposing quarterbacks on a consistent basis, then the secondary does not have to stay in coverage as long and suddenly starts to look better.
Next: Browns defensive front seven long on potential
There is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do before the Browns open the regular season on Sept. 10, but with two of their first four games coming against the Steelers and Bengals, and the other two facing quarterbacks Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens and Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, everyone should get a pretty quick idea of just how good the secondary can be.