Biggest winners and losers from 2019 Cleveland Browns OTA’s

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 11: Rashard Higgins #81 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a play in the third quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 11: Rashard Higgins #81 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a play in the third quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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CLEVELAND, OH – DECEMBER 10: Jermaine Whitehead #35 of the Green Bay Packers stiff arms Darius Hillary #28 of the Cleveland Browns in the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – DECEMBER 10: Jermaine Whitehead #35 of the Green Bay Packers stiff arms Darius Hillary #28 of the Cleveland Browns in the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Winner: Safety Jermaine Whitehead

Entering the offseason program, Jermaine Whitehead was expected to be a backup safety while primarily playing on special teams. But with the hiring of Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator, Whitehead could be stepping into the biggest role of his career.

For most of OTA’s, Whitehead was playing as an extra defensive back and was around the line of scrimmage. Wilks does not play in his base defense often, and prefers to keep an extra defensive back on the field instead of a third linebacker. And it seems like Whitehead is at the front of the line to be the extra defensive back.

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Wilks has featured the hybrid safety/linebacker in his defense for the past few seasons, and it has generally had success. Whitehead has heard plenty of praise from Wilks, but not just because of his ability on the field, but how he is able to be a leader for the defense – via Doug Lesmerises of cleveland.com.

"“Extremely smart. Very intelligent. Takes control when he is out there,” Wilks said. “Knows how to really communicate and articulate the defense and get everybody on the same page.” – Lesmerises, Cleveland.com"

Whitehead will be entering his fifth-season in the NFL after going undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Browns claimed the 26-year-old off waivers in November last season. He played seven games for the Browns, making four total tackles.

In his career, Whitehead has played 26 games, including two starts, and has made 29 total tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, and three passes defensed.

Because Whitehead is not afraid to make tackles, he fits perfectly playing in the box. But he also can go out and cover the slot or stick with a tight end in coverage. With Wilks wanting to play with an extra defensive back on the field, Whitehead fits the mold of what he wants, so he has a good chance at starting by the time the season starts.