Gunner Khadarel Hodge
Khadarel Hodge, along with Tavierre Thomas, are the first line of defense against kickoff and punt returns. Hodge was originally signed by the Los Angeles Rams after playing college ball with Prairie View A & M, and from the get-go impressed everyone with his athletic ability.
He didn’t come to the Rams with a huge pro-style route tree, but the Browns started to use him as an extra wide receiver last season and he was impressive because of his desire and ability to fight for the ball and to fight for additional yardage once the catch was made.
On punt returns, Gillan has enough elevation that his punts are hard to return, but at the same time Browns gunners have usually won the battle with the blockers to force the punt returner to fair catch. Those are rather quiet yards that do not show up in the box score.
There is no stat for solid tackling, but Hodge makes solid tackles. He is a very sure tackler in the open field, as is Thomas, and coverage is expected to be a strength for the Browns this season.
On kickoff returns, Justice Hill is more likely to have an opportunity to return the ball from Austin Seibert‘s kickoffs, which were returnable 60 percent of the time in 2020. Hodge’s job will be to plant Justice Hill of the Ravens inside the 25 and hopefully separate him from the ball.
The return game is often chaotic anyway, and with limited chances to practice it, there is a huge chance for Hodge to be a disruptor on Sunday.