The Cleveland Browns safety group is a young unit that saw a number of players receive a chance to play. The position was in transition this past season after the team moved away from their 2016 starters, Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner. In 2016, the Browns started off with Ibraheim Campbell and Jordan Poyer as their starting safety duo. Injuries and below average play, however, allowed Tracy Howard, Derrick Kindred and Ed Reynolds II to see the field.
It’s difficult to see the Browns taking the field with this same core of players in 2017, assuming the desire to compete. So with that, let’s take a look at the Browns safety unit, examining how the position fared this past season and what the position needs to do before the 2017 season.
Safeties on the roster: Ibraheim Campbell, Tracy Howard, Derrick Kindred, Jordan Poyer, Ed Reynolds II, Tyvis Powell, Justin Currie and Trae Elston.
Ibraheim Campbell: Posted 48 tackles.
Derrick Kindred: Notched 46 tackles and five passes defended.
Ed Reynolds II: Posted 43 tackles, one sack and one pass defended.
Jordan Poyer: Notched 39 tackles and two passes defended.
Tracy Howard: Posted 20 tackles and one pass defended.
Tyvis Powell: Notched three tackles with Seattle.
At the beginning of the season, Ibraheim Campbell was seen as a player who could make the jump to being a really big part of the defense. But, that did not happen. He was unable to assert himself as being the full time strong safety for the Browns. By the end of the season, he was receiving inconsistent playing time. His play and injuries during the season contributed to inconsistent playing time. His strength is defending against the run because he is a sound tackler who can lay the wood on ball carriers. Campbell was a little bit of a letdown after I thought he could be the answer at strong safety.
Jordan Poyer was the veteran of the group and was supposed to be the starting free safety. Poyer, however, was lost for the season after just six games. Assuming he’s healthy enough to play and is retained, Poyer would enter 2017 as the only veteran presence in the safety group, but is not a starting safety-level player. He is a good third safety who can fill in on limited snaps and play solidly. He is a free agent this offseason.
Derrick Kindred is one of the more interesting players in the safety unit. In his rookie season, he had some ups and downs, but showed some promise. Kindred played well enough to earn starting time and a lot of snaps at strong safety, but his season ended suddenly when he was injured during the bye week, causing him to miss the final four weeks of the season. He is a tough player who can sometimes be too aggressive on the field, missing tackles and getting beat deep. His growth will be interesting to watch this offseason.
Ed Reynolds received the second most snaps of all the Browns safeties. He played well against the run this season as he is able to get through contact to make a play on the ball carrier. This trait also helped him to be a solid blitzer from the safety spot. Reynolds’ coverage ability in space is not great, which limits his value. He is a solid situational safety, but not a starting quality safety.
Tracy Howard received inconsistent time last season and did not really show a lot of good play. He is a player who is likely to be the odd man out in the unit, especially if the position is upgraded this offseason.
Tyvis Powell was acquired after the 2016 season. He is a young player who did not see any time on the Seattle defense last year in his rookie season. His future on the team is very uncertain given the amount of safeties on the team. Justin Currie and Trae Elston did not see the field this season and are unlikely to make the squad next season.
The Browns safety unit is young, but it does not have a reliable starter at either safety spots. The position saw a cavalcade of safeties take the field in the back of the secondary. Not one of the players was able to stand out and take control of a starting spot. Ibraheim Campbell and Derrick Kindred are the most talented of the safeties, but both played inconsistently and suffered injuries. The Browns secondary struggled mightily last season and this position contributed to this struggle. The Browns need to upgrade this unit.
The Browns safety unit has a lot of players who are capable of playing in the NFL. Though the position lacks the top of the depth chart talent, the unit is filled with good backup options to play in situational instances. The depth is young with developmental potential to get better. It also has a variety of different types of players who are better in different areas of the game.
The Browns do not have two clear-cut starters at the safety spots. Ibraheim Campbell and Derrick Kindred have the potential to be starting strong safeties, but their play was inconsistent this past season. Free safety is a complete mess with little to no options to fill the starting spot. The safety unit is void of playmakers who can change the game with one play. The starting safety spots must be addressed this offseason.
To Do List
- Find a starting free safety
The Browns do not have a starting quality free safety on the roster. There is not one player on the roster who is a ballhawk, who can take control of the backend of the secondary. The lack of a free safety has contributed to the Browns underwhelming pass defense. In free agency, the Browns could target Eric Berry, who could transition to free safety with his skillset, or D.J. Swearinger. In the draft, the Browns could go after Malik Hooker or Budda Baker.
- Develop Ibraheim Campbell and Derrick Kindred
These two have the makings to be quality strong safeties in the league. Both players have a lot of potential to grow, but they need time and coaching. I believe the Browns could at least use these two in split action at the strong safety spot. But hopefully, one of them can emerge at the position and take control of the strong safety spot.
- Re-sign Jordan Poyer
Jordan Poyer is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He will not be a priority free agent for the Browns, but he should be a player they look to sign on a team-friendly contract. He offers veteran experience at the safety position, which is one of the younger units on the team. Poyer is a quality backup free safety who can play in situational instances.