The preseason injury bug reared its ugly head again at the Cleveland Browns facility this week, where one of the team’s starting defenders was just bit.
Starting safety Grant Delpit suffered a shoulder injury after colliding with a teammate during team drills on Wednesday, August 23. Justin Cooper of ESPN Cleveland shared video of the play via X.
Delpit is entering his fourth season after the Browns selected him No. 44 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Delpit, who will play the majority of this year at the age of 25, started 16 of 17 regular season games for the Browns in 2022. He made 105 tackles, including four tackles for loss, broke up 10 passes and led the defense with a team-high four interceptions, per Pro Football Reference.
Browns Battle for Final Safety Spot Gets More Intriguing After Grant Delpit Injury
The seriousness of Delpit’s shoulder issue may not be known for some time, as teams are not required to make public specific injury information until early next month. Who will fill in for Delpit should he miss any regular season time is also uncertain based on how training camp has played out.
Cleveland lists Delpit as the team’s starting strong safety on the current preseason depth chart. D’Anthony Bell is slotted behind him as the backup. However, Scott Petrak of Browns Zone predicted on Saturday that Ronnie Hickman will usurp Bell and claim his roster spot.
“Hickman, an undrafted rookie out of Ohio State, supplants D’Anthony Bell in the No. 4 spot,” Petrak wrote.
Bell appeared in 16 games for the Browns last season, primarily as a special teams player, though he did earn two starts. The safety played 72 total defensive snaps compared to 248 snaps on special teams.
If Bell is out and Hickman is in, and Delpit is forced to miss time due to the shoulder, it could be Hickman who elevates into the starting role. However, the more likely outcome is that 11-year NFL veteran Rodney McLeod would fill in for Delpit, at least to start. The team currently lists McLeod as the backup free safety behind starter Juan Thornhill.
Ronnie Hickman’s Health a Concern as Browns Approach Season
Cleveland’s secondary was above-average in 2022, at least in terms of yards allowed. The team finished 10th in the NFL in that category, affording opponents 3,710 yards through the air for an average of approximately 218 yards per game. The Browns also finished 9th in collective completion percentage at 62% for the season, per NFL.com.
That said, the defensive backfield made some high-profile missteps that cost the team wins last season, most notably against the New York Jets at home in Week 2. Cleveland blew a 13-point advantage late in the fourth quarter to lose by a single point — a collapse that included a deep-strike touchdown.
The Browns secondary will be a key unit during the upcoming campaign in a loaded AFC North Division, and health is already a concern at the safety position. Hickman also went down recently, suffering a potential concussion during the most recent preseason contest against the Philadelphia Eagles on August 17.
Hickman suffered the injury during the course of making his third interception of the preseason, jogging to the sideline afterward under his own power.