Cleveland Browns 2022 defensive rookie review: Martin Emerson shines

Browns, Martin Emerson Jr. Mandatory Credit: Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports
Browns, Martin Emerson Jr. Mandatory Credit: Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports /
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Browns safety D’Anthony Bell. (Bob Self/Florida Times-Union) /

D’Anthony Bell: Undrafted Free Agent

If this article were written five or six years ago, it would have been commonplace to see an undrafted free agent make the Browns initial roster coming out of training camp. In all honesty, there would have been a 50/50 shot for them to earn a starting spot on the team five or six years ago. But the Browns are in a very different phase of their roster construction and UDFA’s very rarely figure into their plans.

But D’Anthony Bell has been the lone outlier under the new regime. Up until Bell, no undrafted free agents had made Cleveland’s initial roster under the Andrew Berry regime. But in fairness to Bell, he forced their hand. Bell was one of the defense’s most consistent playmakers during the preseason and flashed every time he was given an opportunity.

Bell fit what the Browns look for in their safeties in terms of physicality. The product of the University of West Florida is 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs and excels at playing downhill. But being 25 years old put Bell well outside of their age guardrails.

Even though he made the roster, playing time in the safety room was hard to come by until late in the season for Bell. Up until the last two weeks of the year, he had only logged 13 defensive snaps. Over the course of the final two games, including a start against the Commanders, Bell played 59 defensive snaps. He notched eight total tackles, including three solo stops in each contest.

That increased playing time was more than likely just to get a good look at Bell before heading into the offseason. But considering the current state of the safety room, he has a real opportunity to make a case for himself in Jim Schwartz’ defense. It will most likely take another gargantuan preseason for Bell to latch on, but the opportunity is certainly there.

Ben Stille: Undrafted Free Agent

Ben Stille’s path onto the Browns roster was vastly different from D’Anthony Bell’s. Stille was signed by the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Nebraska. After being cut by the Dolphins at the end of camp, Stille was brought back to their practice squad. The Browns eventually poached Stille off the Dolphins’ practice squad prior to Week 11, which just happened to be the week after they played in Miami.

The Browns defensive tackle room was in disarray, and Stille was brought in to provide depth and hopefully a spark. In his first week with Cleveland, Stille played 43 percent of the team’s defensive snaps but failed to record a stat. Stille played 15 percent of the team’s defensive snaps over the next five weeks but was a healthy scratch for the final two games.

Stille does not figure into the Browns plans in their defensive tackle room, as there will be a massive overhaul to get Schwartz the players that he needs to run his scheme. Given his current trajectory, Stille will probably latch on to a team’s practice squad, but whether that is in Cleveland remains to be seen.

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