BEREA — The question keeps coming up, and rookie cornerback Greedy Williams keeps answering it.
The biggest knock on Williams entering the draft, and perhaps the reason he dropped to the Browns at No. 46 in the second round, was he avoided tackling in his final year at LSU. During the physical training camp practices of coach Freddie Kitchens and again in the preseason opener, Williams has consistently stuck his nose into the fray.
“He showed everybody that he will tackle, I’m sure that’s the main thing everybody wanted to see,” defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker said Saturday before practice. “So that was good to see him make some key tackles for us.”
Williams allowed a 46-yard touchdown pass against Washington on Thursday when he misunderstood the play call and let the receiver run free. Walker said it’s ultimately Williams’ responsibility but the overall communication of the defense should’ve been better.
Williams responded with a pair of tackles, including one for no gain, and an interception.
“It’s hard in practice because you don’t get a lot of live reps, so it’s nice to see in a live setting, because all you want to see is a guy willing,” Walker said of Williams’ tackling. “He proved that he’s willing, so he’ll continue to get better and better.
“Tackling is a mindset, so I think that’s something he wanted to prove and he continues to want to prove that that’s not a weakness in his game.”
Williams is battling veteran Terrance Mitchell to be the starter opposite Denzel Ward. Mitchell has been coming on lately and both have gotten work with the first-team defense.
Williams (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) is in a different situation than Ward was a year ago as a rookie. Ward, the No. 4 pick, moved into the starting lineup early in the offseason and stayed there.
“This staff, we want him to maybe have to earn it versus with Denzel last year, he proved early that he belonged,” Walker said. “With Greedy, just kind of bringing him along a little slower but, at some point, he’s a good football player and he’s going to help our team.”
If Williams wins the starting spot, he’s likely to get a lot of action as quarterbacks avoid Ward and try to take advantage of the rookie.
“For him, that’s a good thing because that will create opportunities for him,” Walker said. “And obviously when and if that time comes I think it will be good for him to experience that.”
Walker made it clear the Browns are counting on veteran TJ Carrie to play a critical role.
Ward, Williams and Mitchell might be the team’s top corners, but they all play exclusively outside. Carrie, who’s been out the last three days with a hamstring injury, is the only proven option to play in the slot.
Carrie played 16 games last year in his first season in Cleveland, starting eight. He had an interception, a sack, eight passes defensed and 73 tackles.
His ability to play inside and outside proved valuable when injuries hit.
“Big-time,” Walker said. “You want to make sure you have guys that are versatile because in this league you’re going to have injuries, things are going to happen, so the more guys are versatile, that really helps to be able to adjust when those situations occur.”
Walker said some guys are only comfortable lining up on the outside.
Running back Dontrell Hilliard assumed the No. 2 job when Duke Johnson was traded to the Texans on Thursday. He was an undrafted rookie in 2018 and has never rushed the ball in an NFL regular-season game.
“It’s no more pressure. It’s the same as it was if he was here,” Hilliard said. “It’s a competitive game, competitive nature, and that move that they made, they opened up an opportunity for me, and I’m going to do my best to take advantage of it.
“Anytime my number’s called, I’m going to be the one, the guy, so I had no doubt in my mind that I can fill that role or a more important role.”
Hilliard fumbled on the 1-yard line Thursday and had a key holding penalty, but Kitchens said there’s no need to panic. He listed many reasons to like Hilliard, who is also an option as a kick returner.
“Dontrell has shown some explosion in the open field,” Kitchens said. “He is hard to get down. He can make you miss. He is shifty, great body control.
“Body control means that they can get knocked off-balance and stay on their feet. He has great body control, change of direction and great speed.”
No. 2 tight end Demetrius Harris (concussion) returned to practice. So did free safety Damarious Randall (groin), who only missed a day.
** Running back Kareem Hunt took team reps for the first time after missing the first eight practices with a groin injury.
“It’s good to have him out there,” Kitchens said. “He’s been working hard on getting back to the point he’s at right now.”
Kitchens said it’s too early to say if Hunt will play Saturday in the preseason game against the Colts.
** Tight end Seth DeValve (concussion), receivers Antonio Callaway (ankle) and Damion Ratley (hamstring), offensive lineman Kyle Kalis (concussion), defensive ends Anthony Zettel (ankle) and Jarrell Owens (groin), defensive tackle Brian Price (concussion) and cornerback Tavierre Thomas (hamstring) remained sidelined.
For the first time in camp, No. 2 quarterback Drew Stanton took reps with the first-team offense, running a late two-minute drill. Kitchens said Baker Mayfield had thrown a lot early and he wanted to work different combinations.
Linebacker Joe Schobert intercepted Stanton.
** Eric Kush was the first-team right guard and third-team center.
** Defensive end Genard Avery had two sacks.
** Fullback Joe Kerridge was signed. He went to Michigan and played 12 games with Green Bay in 2016-17.
** Walker picked Deion Sanders and Mike Haynes as the top corners of all time. Pass game coordinator/secondary coach Joe Whitt had gone with Charles Woodson and Haynes earlier in camp.