Cleveland Browns safety Morgan Burnett has been a versatile defender his entire career, but he is excited to play his natural position in 2019.
Cleveland Browns safety Morgan Burnett will be joining several familiar faces in Cleveland from his days with the Green Bay Packers, including Browns’ secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr., Damarious Randall, and Jermaine Whitehead.
But Burnett is not only going to be playing with familiar faces, he is going to be playing a familiar position. In fact, Burnett is excited to be playing his natural position, strong safety, for the Browns in 2019.
Over the past several years, even during his final seasons with the Packers, Burnett was moved around the defensive formation. Burnett has played close to the line of scrimmage for most of his career, except for last year with the Steelers.
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Burnett has grown fond of playing in the box, especially after playing as a nitro linebacker for the Packers. But when the Steelers signed him last season, they needed a deep safety more than a safety who plays in the box. So Burnett played as a deep safety last season, and struggled in the role, playing the worst season of his career.
In 11 games for the Steelers, Burnett made 30 total tackles, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, and six passes defensed. A year prior, Burnett made 68 total tackles, five tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, one forced fumble, and three passes defensed in 12 games.
But with the Browns, Burnett is expected to return to the box and play closer to the line of scrimmage. That is why Burnett is confident that he can play better in 2019 – via Dan Labbe of cleveland.com.
"“Of course you want to play your natural position where you can play faster and play fast,” Burnett said, “but honestly I just feel like it’s part of your job. There are some things about your job you may not like but at the end of the day you’ve got to be accountable to your teammates and find a way to get that job done and that’s wherever you line up at.” – Labbe, Cleveland.com"
The Cleveland Browns defense is expected to play in sub-packages often and feature an extra defensive back on the field instead of a third linebacker for the majority of games. This will allow Burnett to play in the box more often.
When healthy and able to play a full season, Burnett played like one of the best safeties in the NFL. But the last time Burnett played more than 12 games was in 2016. In 15 games that season, Burnett made 91 total tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, and nine passes defensed.
The Browns will hope Burnett’s return to strong safety will help him play like his former self. But they will also hope his experience in the playoffs will carry over and help the Browns in their push to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
With a young defense, Burnett could play a vital role in being a leader on that side of the ball. And with a return to his natural position where he is more comfortable, perhaps Burnett can be one of the most productive defenders for the Browns.