Even though the Cleveland Browns had a disappointing campaign in 2022, they did manage to bring in a few rookies on defense that could be part of the team’s future. Here we break down that rookie defensive class.
With the Cleveland Browns 2022 campaign mercifully coming to an end, it is time to do some reflecting on the season that was. Even though the Browns finished with a disappointing 7-10 record, there were players that deserve to be recognized for their performance.
The usual suspects: Joel Bitonio, Nick Chubb, and Myles Garrett were named to the Pro Bowl. Bitonio notched another All-Pro First-Team nod, while Chubb and Garrett were named to the second team.
However, there were some bright spots on the Browns that probably will not get much league-wide recognition. That is where we come in.
Now let us break down the Browns defensive rookies for the 2022 season
Martin ‘MJ’ Emerson: Round 3 (68th overall pick)
While it is wise to wait a few seasons before declaring a draft selection as a slam dunk, we think we are safe on this one. On night number two of the 2022 NFL draft, the Browns shocked their fanbase when they traded back out of the second round and selected a cornerback with their first selection. That pick was Martin Emerson out of Mississippi State.
Cornerback was not viewed as a position of need by the fanbase, but the decision-makers in Berea felt differently. Why they chose Emerson became evident as soon as training camp started. Emerson came into camp and immediately began turning heads with his size and his aggressive playing style.
At 6-2 and 195lbs, Emerson provided a physical element that the team did not have in the cornerback room. The only question was, would Emerson see the field enough in a stacked cornerback room to make a difference? The rookie answered that question emphatically.
Emerson played 72 percent of the team’s defensive snaps on the season and led all of the Browns cornerbacks in completion percentage allowed in coverage with 50.1 percent. Emerson finished tied with Denzel Ward for the most passes defended (15) and led all Browns’ corners in total tackles (63) as well as solo tackles (51).
Numbers aside, Emerson passed the eye test from the moment his number was called. The rookie never looked out of place and came up large in the biggest moments. Even without logging any interceptions, Emerson was Cleveland’s best cornerback in 2022.
With his rookie season in the books, Emerson will be expected to take another step going into his second campaign. Now with Jim Schwartz as the defensive coordinator, the Browns should employ an uptick of cover one, putting Emerson in a position to use his physicality in man-to-man coverage.
While it is too early to make any declarations on Emerson’s upper-bound limits, it is safe to say that AFC North receivers will not be looking forward to facing off against No. 23 for the foreseeable future.