Browns get a pacesetter in linebacker Anthony Walker whereas secondary elevates to elite

BEREA, Ohio – Free company got here and went final month. And as soon as once more, the Cleveland Browns made huge strikes to enhance their roster. Final offseason, Cleveland prioritized shoring up its offense. This time, common supervisor Andrew Berry centered on protection, signing 5 gamers thus far with an opportunity to win beginning jobs in coaching camp.

Right here’s a breakdown of the signings, with perception from the reporters who lined these gamers at their earlier stops:

Security John Johnson III

The news from NFL Nation: “Johnson proved himself as a flexible playmaker and chief over 4 seasons. He has the flexibility to play free and powerful security and may play deep or within the field. A crew captain in 2020, Johnson served because the defensive sign caller the place his intelligence and maturity performed a key function on the NFL’s top-ranked protection. In 4 seasons, together with 48 begins (Johnson was positioned on injured reserve after six video games in 2019 due to a shoulder harm), Johnson has eight interceptions and 32 cross deflections.” – Rams reporter Lindsey Thiry

My take: Johnson may actually show to be one of many high free-agent signings anyplace. He solves the most important query mark on Cleveland’s whole roster. And he offers the protection one other confirmed chief. Johnson ought to have a serious affect on the sphere and within the locker room, and if Cleveland takes one other step ahead subsequent season, he’ll determine to be an enormous cause why.

He stated it: “You speak about coming from the No. 1 protection, you have got Aaron Donald Jalen Ramsey. I see Denzel Ward and Myles Garrett as the identical factor. What I see proper now’s simply a variety of guys who can play soccer, who like to play soccer and who’ve performed nice soccer. I simply wish to are available and be a pacesetter and simply give them ideas that I’ve realized over my profession and issues that I noticed even final 12 months that acquired us to such a terrific protection, a top-ranked protection. I simply wish to be a man that folks can simply really feel my vibe and it’ll rub off on folks.” – Johnson

Linebacker Anthony Walker

The news from NFL Nation: “He was by no means one of the best linebacker on the Colts, however it was no secret that he was veteran chief of that group. He was very effectively revered within the locker room (see Darius Leonard’s Twitter). Walker struggled in cross protection towards quicker tight ends, and solely performed 18 snaps within the playoff recreation at Buffalo. However what he lacked in athleticism he made up with unimaginable smarts (Northwestern schooling). However it grew to become increasingly more apparent because the season went on that Bobby Okereke was the participant the Colts most well-liked at center linebacker. – Colts reporter Mike Wells

My take: Walker takes over the B.J. Goodson function, and may see a variety of snaps subsequent season because the veteran presence enjoying alongside Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki and Jacob Phillips. And Walker’s issues in protection throughout the common season could possibly be mitigated by defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ 4-2-5 scheme — though, within the playoffs, offenses like Kansas Metropolis will discover and create the mismatch if Walker is on the sphere.

He stated it: “You speak about a crew that’s a fourth-and-one away from beating the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs and occurring to the subsequent spherical. A crew that you may say is a pair items away or possibly a play or two away from being in talks of enjoying within the Tremendous Bowl final 12 months. You be part of a crew like that with the tradition they’re constructing, the crew, the comradery, all of that stuff — I’m a small a part of becoming a member of a terrific group and a company that’s delivering the precise path.” – Walker

Cornerback Troy Hill

The news from NFL Nation: “Hill is coming off a breakout season. The seventh-year professional largely served as a backup in his first three seasons in L.A. till the Rams underwent a serious shakeup of their secondary in 2019 and Hill took over as a starter reverse of Jalen Ramsey. Final season, Hill shifted inside to play slot cornerback. He intercepted three passes and scored three defensive touchdowns. Hill has confirmed a capability to defend on the within and on the perimeter. In six seasons, Hill has seven interceptions and 29 cross deflections.” –Thiry

My take: Hill steps into the spot Kevin Johnson manned final 12 months, and the Browns are banking Hill will give them a better-tackling, faster possibility. Hill is extra of a pure on the nickel, and may assist Woods’ protection work extra successfully than it did at instances final season.

He stated it: “It positively seems like a homecoming. Lots of my blood family members are nonetheless out in Ohio in Youngstown or Columbus. Simply with the ability to come again residence and provides them a chance to make extra video games – despite the fact that that’s going to harm my pockets with all them tickets – it’s an thrilling course of for me. Simply rising up, understanding what Ohio soccer is, how a lot they cherish Ohio soccer, the fanbase in Cleveland and every thing that comes together with it, I’m excited to be out right here. It type of jogs my memory of being a child once more and enjoying ball as a child. It’s going to be enjoyable.” – Hill

Defensive deal with Malik Jackson

The news from NFL Nation: “Jackson stays an efficient inside cross rusher (18 QB pressures in 2020) who can line up exterior occasionally. He’s not as dominant as he was in his Jacksonville days, however his capability flashes loads when wholesome. His time in Philadelphia was a disappointment total, largely due to a LisFranc harm that sidelined him for almost all the 2019 season. Maybe he’ll be extra of a constant power at his subsequent cease, however it’s most likely greatest to set expectations barely decrease than that.” – Eagles reporter Tim McManus

My take: If he’s wholesome, Jackson will compete for a beginning job alongside Sheldon Richardson with Andrew Billings, who opted out of final season as a consequence of COVID-19. Jackson may make an affect if wholesome. However that would be the predominant query till he proves once more that he can keep on the sphere.

He stated it: “I’m far more comfy, rather a lot stronger and there are not any extra psychological roadblocks of getting a foot harm. I really feel like I’m simply going to come back again and really feel much more assured.” – Jackson

Defensive finish Takkarist McKinley

The news from NFL Nation: “Yeah, the Raiders had plans for McKinley, given they signed the 2017 first-round decide on Nov. 23 (after he already had failed physicals with the Bengals and 49ers), positioned him on IR 4 days later after which designated him to return on Dec. 15. Factor was, McKinley, who had 16.5 mixed sacks his first three years, by no means performed a down for Las Vegas. Fairly, he used the services to rehab and the Raiders, who clearly noticed sufficient potential in him to maintain him on the roster to the bitter finish, thought they may get him to re-sign. As a substitute, McKinley heads to Cleveland with extra query marks than solutions. Once more.” – Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez

My take: In concept, McKinley is the kind of finish who may complement Myles Garrett effectively beginning reverse him. Garrett’s pace usually forces quarterbacks to step up into the pocket. McKinley, together with his energy, can collapse the pocket from the opposite facet, stopping cell QBs from escaping. McKinley has the expertise. However his well being and head will must be proper for him to provide the Browns what they want up entrance.

He stated it: “Life is a rollercoaster. For me, the most important factor is to study from my errors. I’m not good. I made a variety of errors in my previous. Nevertheless, if I wish to develop from that, I simply don’t make the identical mistake twice. So far as the chance goes, typically a recent begin is one of the best factor for everybody. I’m simply very, very excited to be part of the Cleveland Browns understanding how unhealthy they needed me and understanding the chance that lies in entrance of me.” – McKinley

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