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Moving Greg Newsome Into the Slot the Right Move for Browns

Much has been made about the tricky transition Cleveland Browns corner Greg Newsome II is trying to make to the slot, but it was the right decision.
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The Browns decision to move 2021 first round pick Greg Newsome II into the slot after having such a promising rookie season opposite Denzel Ward has proven to be a wise one. Even though the transition for Newsome has been a bumpy one for Newsome, which shouldn't be surprising considering his lack of experience in the role, but the longer term vision for the corner position is encouraging..

It's entirely understandable for someone to wonder why the Browns would move Newsome given how well he played as a rookie on the outside. It struck me as curious when the move was made in minicamp. 

The team had traded veteran corner Troy Hill back to the Los Angeles Rams for a fifth-round draft pick, leaving the role of slot open. It seemed as though the Browns would bring in someone else to play the role of the slot, leaving Ward and Newsome on the outside, what seemed like it would be an institution for the Browns for the next several years.

So what changed? The Browns selected Martin Emerson Jr. with the first pick of their 2022 NFL Draft in the third round. Even though Emerson was built to play on the outside, it seemed like the Browns might move him inside to see if he could do it rather than rock the boat with what they already had there.

Instead, the Browns played him to his strengths, keeping him on the outside where he earned his spot in the lineup. It's proven to be the right decision as Emerson has thrived out there in his rookie season. He's having a better year than Newsome did as a rookie, not an easy hurdle to clear. PFF recently ranked Emerson as their 25th corner in the entire league.

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None of this is to suggest that Newsome can't excel on the outside. The fact that he can transition into the slot speaks to the level of talent the team saw when they drafted him 26th overall in 2022. The Browns found a gem in the third round who gives them the flexibility to move a talent like Newsome into the slot, giving them the potential for three outstanding corners on the field at once.

The Browns may envision Newsome becoming a player like Chris Harris Jr., someone that defensive coordinator Joe Woods coached when he was with the Denver Broncos. Harris was an impact player that operated in the same role Newsome currently occupies, even earning first team All-Pro honors when the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2016. That year, the Broncos boasted a trio of Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby as part of a dominant defense. The Browns have an eerily similar makeup in terms of roles and style with Ward, Emerson and Newsome.

Newsome is 6' and ran a 4.39 coming out of Northwestern, but his 6.9 3-cone suggests his hips are fluid enough to make an effective transition inside. Outside of a lack of experience, there doesn't appear to be a compelling reason Newsome can't succeed inside. The same can't be said for players like Emerson or Greedy Williams. If there were ever a year for the Browns to give Newsome all the reps possible to build his confidence, it's this one.

Should it work, Newsome not only would give the Browns another effective coverage option, it could enable him to make more plays on the ball. An errant crossing route or a rushed throw to the flat could result in Newsome intercepting the pass and possibly scoring.

There's a risk that it fails, but the larger gamble is in having a good player rot on the bench out of fear. There aren't a ton of corners who can offer the versatility that Newsome can, so it's worth exploring.

There are a number of areas where the Browns have been wrong this season, especially when it comes to defense, but they made the right call here and the payoff could be significant.