Coming off of an Achilles injury that derailed his would-be rookie season, Grant Delpit is now dealing with a hamstring injury. Why are the Cleveland Browns not panicking?
Andrew Berry and the Cleveland Browns appeared to pull off one of the biggest steals of the 2020 NFL draft when they selected Grant Delpit in the second round. Going into the 2019 NCAA season, Delpit was viewed as the most talented safety, and possibly defender, in all of college football.
His sophomore season as a Tiger, Delpit put out some of the best tape you will find at the position. He racked up 46 solo tackles (74 combined), nine tackles for loss, five sacks, 14 passes defended, and five interceptions. Delpit looked to be a superstar in the making.
The standout safety gutted out his junior season at LSU, playing on an injured ankle that kept him from being a no-brainer first round selection. Berry and the Browns saw Delpit’s talents and did not hesitate to pull the trigger when he fell to them at 44th overall. In Delpit, and incoming defensive coordinator Joe Woods, the Browns looked to have another key piece to help mold their new defense.
Unfortunately, for Delpit and the Browns, the rookie ruptured his Achilles tendon early in camp and his 2020 season was over before it began. The recovery timetable from a ruptured Achilles is not as clear cut as most injuries suffered in professional sports. Usually, an athlete takes at least a year to return, and in most cases, they never fully return to their peak physical potential.
But as is the case in the NFL, the show must go on. Berry and the Browns went to work and traded the Jacksonville Jaguars a 5th round pick in exchange for safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. While Harrison took a while to acclimate to his new defensive scheme, when he finally got on the field it was apparent the Browns got themselves a steal.
The rest of the safety room left a ton to be desired, so Berry upgraded the room drastically by signing John Johnson III this past offseason. Johnson, while unheralded, is a topflight free safety and was the quietly the leader of his former team, the Los Angeles Rams. With Johnson and Harrison in the fold, the Browns have two of the smartest, most talented young safeties in the league.
The thought of adding Delpit alongside the Johnson and Harrison, could make the Browns one of the most dynamic defenses in the league. Unfortunately, Delpit suffered another setback injuring his hamstring in training camp and is unable to get on field repetitions with the defense. While it is not inconceivable that he could return, it is unlikely that he will be at full speed, both physically and schematically, in time for the season opener.
Fortunately, the Browns are now in a position where they do not have to rush him into action. While it is no secret that Woods wants to put three safeties on the field as his base defense, until Delpit gets up to speed that will have to wait.
Woods does have four, more than serviceable, cornerbacks that can help put extra defensive backs on the field until his safety room is back to full strength. Also, the Browns likely fifth cornerback, MJ Stewart, has been cross training at both corner and safety, which could prove to be a valuable asset until Delpit’s return.
The reality of the situation is Berry constructed this roster in such a way that Delpit is a luxury and not a necessity at this time. However, the quicker Delpit is able to recover, the faster this defense can gel and realize its full potential.