The WFNY grading period for the 2017 Cleveland Browns season is almost up as we finish the last couple units on defense. We have already graded the offense and have just a couple more positions on defense, along with the special teams. Today, we take a look at the cornerback group.
The Browns made some big moves before the 2017 season to change the cornerback unit around. Before the start of the regular season, the Browns released long time Browns corner Joe Haden. The move thrust newly signed Jason McCourty into the No. 1 cornerback role. McCourty was signed in free agency from the Tennessee Titans. The rest of the group was pretty much left intact.
So, how did the Browns cornerbacks perform in 2017? Here are my 2017 season grades for the Browns cornerback unit.
Overall Grade: B
Briean Boddy-Calhoun: A-
39 tackles and six passes defended
Jason McCourty: B+
65 tackles, two forced fumbles, 14 passes defended, three interceptions and a touchdown
Jamar Taylor: C-
62 tackles, a half sack, one forced fumble and 10 passes defended
Mike Jordan: D
20 tackles and three passes defended
C.J. Smith: INC
Howard Wilson: INC
Reggie Porter: INC
Top Grade: Briean Boddy-Calhoun
Briean Boddy-Calhoun is a hidden superstar on the Browns. The cornerback was a no fly zone in the slot and in some outside cornerback situations. According to Pro Football Focus, Boddy-Calhoun allowed just 0.46 yards per coverage snap, which the second best mark in the league. Also, according to PFF, the Browns corner allowed a reception in every 19.3 coverage snaps, which was third best in the league. He is a building block in the secondary and a player to rely on for years to come. I did not give him a higher grade because of his lower snap count compared to his counterparts in the unit. He should see a bigger workload next season.
Biggest Strength: Slot corners
The Browns are flush with slot corners. Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Jamar Taylor excel in the slot. The duo could be starting slot corners on almost any team in the league. The Browns played Boddy-Calhoun in the slot for most of the season this year, but last season Taylor had one of his best year’s in the league while playing a lot of snaps in the slot. The Browns are set at this position with whomever they want in that spot.
Biggest Need: No. 1 cornerback
Jason McCourty had a really good season as the Browns No. 1 cornerback. But, he seemed to tail off at the end of the season and he is an aging player. So, the Browns should look to find a No. 1 corner or a corner who has the potential to be a No. 1 corner to help solidify the unit. With an addition of a No. 1 corner, McCourty could slip to the No. 2 corner spot and Boddy-Calhoun can dominate as the slot and third cornerback in the depth chart. The corner unit is not bad, but this addition could make it elite.
The Browns cornerback unit was hurt by the defensive scheme defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran this season. The team consistently played off coverage and did not try to adjust when the other team amended to their coverage. It hurt the overall performances of the players, putting them in tougher positions to stop a completion from happening. Jason McCourty and Briean Boddy-Calhoun both had good seasons in the unit. Jamar Taylor took a step back from last season with the move to the outside and to Williams’ new coverage scheme. But, he was not bad. Mike Jordan came in when the unit was dealt with injuries and he struggled in that spot. The Browns have a lot of the talent in the cornerback room, but the production of the group was hampered by the situation they were put in.
The Browns have much of the talent they need already in their cornerback room. But, the Browns should look to add a true No. 1 cornerback this offseason. This could be a draft prospect who has the potential to be a No. 1 corner. McCourty was good in that spot this season, but he fell off late in the year and with his age contract status, he cannot be trusted to hold that role for very long. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams also needs to adjust his defensive schematics and game plans. He cannot continue to put his defenders in vulnerable positions like playing off coverage for an entire game. With these two improvements, the Browns corner unit can be one of the best in the league.
The Browns will draft a cornerback with one of their first four picks in the 2018 NFL Draft.