Fans know the Cleveland Browns defense provides one of the NFL’s biggest Week 1 stories.
Excuses aside, the unit thoroughly shut down Joe Burrow and the Bengals in the 24-3 Browns victory.
About the only thing to be concerned about on the defensive side of the ball is the lack of forced turnovers.
But that might be fixed with the return of Juan Thornhill, which got a step closer as announced by the team.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 15, 2023
Thornhill’s return to practice, albeit in a limited capacity, bodes well for the Browns’ defense.
Cleveland prioritized signing a true centerfielder-type of free safety this offseason, a role they lacked.
And that brought Thornhill to the Browns as GM Andrew Berry’s first free-agency signing.
The former Chief gave fans a preview of his ball-hawking talent with a pick-6 in the preseason finale.
Browns Have Some Secondary Depth
Veteran Rodney McLeod started at free safety in Thornhill’s absence.
McLeod provides savvy veteran guidance to the unit after signing on as a free agent this year.
But the 33-year-old also has plenty of playing life left, as evidenced by his top-notch performance on Sunday.
Rookie UDFA Ronnie Hickman handles McLeod’s third-safety role ahead of fellow UDFA D’Anthony Bell.
Touchdown 1️⃣ today…
— BROWNS OR DIE 💀 (@BrownsorDie) August 26, 2023
Cleveland’s trio of lockdown corners makes it easier for the free safety to play the ball hawk role.
But, despite the solid play of his backups, that is really Thornhill’s designated role.
Everybody on the Browns’ defense agrees the secondary is better with their top safety on the field.
And his return does not bode well for Kenny Pickett and the Steelers.