BEREA, Ohio — While the availability of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson remains unknown for the 2022 season, the defense provides a sense of consistency.
There are two themes surrounding the defense during training camp - continuity and confidence.
"I think we're callous. I think we built those little scars. We healed up from them and now we can put our foot to the gas and get things going," said Browns safety John Johnson III.
The Browns finished 5th in the NFL in total defense last season. They were rolling by the second half of the year. Now, they're picking up where they left off.
"Last year, obviously, we had different combinations every game. Now that we see that we can play with a bunch of combinations out there, we're gonna have trust in each other and definitely be ready to go from game one this year," said Browns cornerback Greg Newsome II.
"It just feels natural. We don't have to say anything to each other. It's kinda like we just look and that's, like, the definition of a good defense, a good secondary," said Johnson.
Cleveland is returning 8 of 11 defensive starters from last season. That familiarity is what is producing confidence.
"We can take us as far as we wanna take us," said Newsome.
"I do like the confidence from the players. I do feel like we have a chance to have a good defense, but you gotta prove it. You can't talk about it. You gotta do it between the white lines," said Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
"I feel like this is the most well-rounded we've been since I've been here, so let's try to make the most of it and make plays all up and down the field," said Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.
The Browns are placing a premium on taking the ball away, which means forcing turnovers is the main emphasis at training camp.
"That's what we live and breathe. That's in our DNA. We wanna take away the football. We haven't done as good a job the previous two years. We greatly have to improve that because that's one of the most important categories, if not the most important category, when it comes to winning games," said Woods.
To hone in on that focus, the Browns have started an "alpha dogs" competition. The defense is divided into 4 even teams and will be battling throughout camp.
"We try to make our practices like games, so we try to chart all of the information. Then, we keep track of the guys leading each category, teams leading each category. There may be a reward at the end," said Woods.
"You're always looking for ways to motivate guys on a day-to-day basis. I think each position group does it in their own way, and, certainly, Joe, with the unit, is taking it to a unique place," said Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Alpha dog mode will really kick in on Tuesday, when the Browns hold their first practice in full pads. As for the prize(s) being awarded to the winning team - that's being kept a secret.
Carly Mascitti is a sports anchor at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @carlymascitti.
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