Jamoris Slaughter to Browns: How Does FS Fit with Cleveland?
Many were expecting the Browns to select a safety here. Few were expecting that safety to be Jamoris Slaughter, however.
Slaughter missed most of the 2012 season with a torn Achilles tendon, but he had previously shown promise as a solid college safety.
The biggest question with Slaughter is how he fits in the NFL. Few deny that he was a good college player. The 6'0", 195-pounder played a bit of a hybrid linebacker/safety position at Notre Dame, though, and he isn't nearly big enough to do that in the NFL.
There is also the problem with T.J. Ward. Ward is the Browns' strong safety, and he's the guy who plays closer to the line of scrimmage, always keeping an eye on the run.
So can Slaughter fit in next to Ward?
That remains to be seen. At Notre Dame, Slaughter was rarely asked to do much in coverage. He showed solid ability when matched up with tight ends, but he simply isn't big enough to do that in the NFL.
That means Slaughter will have to cover wide receivers, which he may not be athletic enough to do. Slaughter is physical in coverage, shows solid ball skills and is intelligent, always reading the quarterback's eyes.
Sometimes, though, these skills don't go far enough. Safeties have to be fairly athletic to cover wide receivers, and athleticism isn't a strength for Slaughter. He isn't especially fast or quick, so wide receivers will be able to beat him.
One thing is clear though. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said he wants little guys who can hit, and Slaughter fits that description. He is constantly attacking, always looking for someone to hit. Slaughter is an effective blitzer, showing the ability to get past offensive lineman and overpower running backs on his way to the quarterback.
Horton is a huge fan of blitzing his defensive backs, and he will almost certainly use Slaughter there. The question is whether Slaughter can be strong enough in coverage to have the opportunity to really be an effective blitzer.
In many ways, Slaughter makes sense in Cleveland's defense. The biggest problem remains the inclusion of Ward, who keeps Slaughter from being able to play his more natural position of strong safety.
If the Browns want Slaughter to start as a rookie, they will have to deal with some lackluster range and pass coverage from their safeties in exchange for physical play and run support.
That may be a tradeoff Cleveland is willing to make, but it could also be an ill-advised one, especially given the team's inexperience at cornerback.
It's far from certain that Slaughter will step in as a starter. Both Johnson Bademosi and Tashaun Gipson could offer competition there. The two veterans are both more free safety types with more experience in coverage.
Does Jamoris Slaughter fill the Browns' hole at safety?
However, Slaughter should be able to compete at free safety. He is more physically talented than both Bademosi and Gipson, and he should definitely be better against the run.
If Slaughter does start, don't expect anything wonderful from him. He will pick up a few tackles, maybe even a couple sacks, but he won't be dashing all over the field, making brilliant plays in coverage.
At the least, expect Slaughter to play on special teams. He may not be refined enough to see significant playing time on defense, but his physical style is perfect for kick coverage.
Cleveland entered the draft with a desperate need at free safety. After this pick, though, it's difficult to say the team did much to address it in the short term.
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