Cleveland Browns: 3 Surprises after first 5 days of camp
2. Jermaine Whitehead’s hybrid role
Not long after the Browns hired former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks as their defensive coordinator, there were reports that they were planning to use more two linebacker sets than usual. However, as training camp has gotten underway we have seen that this isn’t a typical nickel defense Wilks is employing.
Rather than use a third cornerback in place of the linebacker, he’s been placing a third safety on the field as a sort of hybrid role. So far, Jermaine Whitehead has been filling that role and the reviews have been positive. Following a practice this past weekend, Whitehead discussed the role and said he’s expected to help in the pass and run game.
"“It is a versatile role,” Whitehead explained of his third safety position Saturday via Nick Shook of ClevelandBrowns.com. “One that plays in the box, run fit versus two tight end sets, 21 personnel, especially in pass situations. Just a dual-threat guy, one that has seen a lot in the pass and run game.”"
Wilks, who was the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator before taking the Arizona job last season, has had different players fill this same role in the past. With the Panthers, it was Shaq Thompson — a linebacker by title but who is undersized for the position and possesses safety-like speed. With the Cards, it was Budda Baker who manned the slot and had 102 tackles and two sacks last season.
Throughout the offseason, the staff was singing the praises of Whitehead, who was claimed off waivers in 2018. Now we are finally seeing his role and it looks like one that could give opposing offenses issues.