Browns camp: Three key goals and top battle

Denzel Ward, the No. 4 pick in the draft, could step right into a starting cornerback role.Photo: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the Browns' priorities

Three goals:

  • Establish starting secondary. The Browns traded starting cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty in the offseason and all they could get for each was a sixth-round draft pick. Denzel Ward was taken with the fourth overall pick and is projected as the starting left cornerback. Other jobs are up for grabs. T.J. Carrie and E.J. Gaines will battle to be the right cornerback. The other will likely be the nickel back. Damarious Randall is set as the free safety. One of the best battles of camp will be fought between Jabrill Peppers and Derrick Kendrick for the job of starting strong safety.

  • Find a role for Mychal Kendrick. The Browns signed Kendrick in early June. He is primarily an outside linebacker, but those jobs are filled by Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey. Joe Schobert made the Pro Bowl as a middle linebacker last year. Kendrick is flexible enough to play inside or outside, but the Browns play a 4-3 base defense. That means a starting linebacker will be stuck on the sideline. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is confident he can juggle his linebackers and keep them all happy.

  • Share the ball at running back. The Browns signed Carlos Hyde in free agency and drafted Nick Chubb with the 45th overall pick. Duke Johnson Jr. is versatile and can line up as a slot receiver and he is dangerous when he gets a mismatch against a linebacker in passing situations. He led the Browns with 74 catches last year. Tight end Seth DeValve was second with 33 catches. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is working with a full toolbox and one football.

Top battle:

--Left tackle. It is no exaggeration to say the success or failure of the Browns in 2018 hinges on finding an adequate replacement for retired Joe Thomas. Thomas made the Pro Bowl 10 straight years before a triceps injury in mid-2017 hastened his decision to give up football. Shon Coleman, the right tackle from last season, took the majority of snaps at left tackle in OTAs and minicamp. He will get competition from veteran Greg Robinson, and rookie Austin Corbett, the 33rd overall pick in 2018. If none of the three pan out, head coach Hue Jackson might be forced to move left guard Joel Bitonio to tackle. Jackson is reluctant to make that move because he doesn't want to make changes at two positions. Whoever wins the job will need quick feet to successfully keep quarterback Tyrod Taylor upright in pass protection.

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