The WFNY grading period for the 2017 Cleveland Browns season is winding down as we finish the defense today. On Monday WFNY’s Joe Gilbert graded the cornerbacks, and that leaves us with one position left. Today, we take a look at the safeties.
The Browns jumped at the opportunity to add to this position in the draft, selecting Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers with the 25th pick of the first round. They added Peppers to go with a group that already featured Ibraheim Campbell, Derrick Kindred, and Kai Nacua.
Before the start of the regular season, the Browns released Calvin Pryor for fighting– they had received Pryor in return from the Jets in a trade for Demario Davis. Pryor’s removal meant that the Browns went into the season with the rookie Peppers starting at free safety, and Derrick Kindred, in his second year, starting at strong safety. Durimg the year, the Browns waived Campbell after a hamstring injury, and added Derron Smith from Cincinnati.
So, lets take a look at how they fared in 2017.
Overall Grade: C+
Derrick Kindred: B- (82.0 PFF Grade)
57 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, six passes defended, one interception
Jabrill Peppers: D+ (45.5 PFF Grade)
57 tackles, three passes defended, one interception
Kai Nacua: C (72.4 PFF Grade)
Ibraheim Campbell: C (75.8 PFF Grade)
16 tackles, one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery, one pass defended
Top Grade: Derrick Kindred
The Browns needed unsung from the safety position, and Derrick Kindred provided it in 2017. He was a frequent visitor in the box to help against the run, and ended up being an enforcer the Browns needed off an edge whenever he was on the field. His 11 tackles for loss ranked near the top of the team’s defense, and he delivered the types of big hits in the box that the defense needed. Kindred has to improve in man to man pass coverage, but his support in the run game was enough to show his worth. If Kindred can take strides next year in the passing game, he will more than likely find himself in Pro-Bowl conversations in the future.
Biggest Strength: Box Safeties
Between Jabrill Peppers and Derrick Kindred, the Browns have two players who can play in the box with comfort and success. Peppers played the majority of 2017 deep (extremely) as the free safety in Gregg Williams scheme, but he was clearly uncomfortable doing it. Peppers came along later in the season, but was clearly most comfortable taking over for Kindred late in the year when an injury cut his season short. The Browns will be comfortable bringing either player down for support in 2018.
Biggest Need: Free Safety
It was clear the Browns had two players capable, and most comfortable, playing near the line of scrimmage, but they didn’t have a player worthy or capable playing in the deep free safety spot. Again, Jabrill Peppers grew more comfortable in the role as the season wore on, but it was still unclear upon the season’s conclusion whether or not he was going to be able to handle the role long-term with the type of success to make it worth it. The Browns will need to target one or two players who fit this role in the upcoming free agency period or the 2018 draft.
The Browns safety unit was hurt by the defensive scheme defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran this season. Between the depth of the corners, and the depth of the free safety, it was difficult to see them being a major factor in the Browns’ defense. Overall, they weren’t good enough to make a serious impact in on the pass defense that struggled, and they will need better results from the position in 2018. The best part here is that Peppers and Kindred now have another year’s worth of experience, and they will hopefully display more confidence in their role next year. It will be vital for Williams to deploy the two of them in a way that they can make a bigger impact.
The Browns will draft a safety in the early part of the 2018 draft. They will draft Minkah Fitzpatrick, and look to sign LaMarcus Joyner during the free agency period.