Newly signed Browns safety Juan Thornhill knows a thing or two about what championship teams are made of.
Having played in two of the past three Super Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs, Thornhill’s abundant playoff experience made the 27-year-old an intriguing free-agent target in 2023.
Cleveland swooped in and inked the former second-round pick as part of its defensive revamp this offseason, and Thornhill arrived with the belief he is joining a Super Bowl-ready squad.
“All of the pieces are here,” Thornhill said, via the team’s website. “They’ve got a really good quarterback, receivers, the defense is super strong. I feel like all of the pieces are here and we have that capability of getting there and making a splash in the playoffs and making it to the Super Bowl.”
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Thornhill is coming off arguably his best season as a pro with 71 total tackles, three interceptions and nine passes defensed in 16 starts, all of which are career highs. It marked Thornhill’s second consecutive season as a full-fledged starter and further proved he was well past the torn ACL he sustained as a rookie, which wiped away his chance at playing in Super Bowl LIV.
In the 2022 playoffs, Thornhill was called upon to help lead a young Chiefs secondary that had little playoff experience through a gauntlet of pass-happy AFC contenders en route to Super Bowl LVII, during which K.C. edged the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-35.
“We had four or five rookies this year that had to play,” recalled Thornhill, who earned the second Super Bowl ring of his career in February. “I was looked at as that guy that had to be that leader, so I had to be that teacher in the room and be the guy that they can lean on if something was to go wrong and to lift them up.”
In Cleveland, Thornhill will presumably replace John Johnson III, a veteran free safety cut by the team following a disappointing year for the entire Browns defense. Finishing middle of the pack in yards allowed per game (331.2) and points per game (22.0), Cleveland also moved on from Joe Woods this offseason and hired Jim Schwartz as its new defensive coordinator.
Schwartz’s arrival is expected to be the much-needed change in philosophy for a Browns defense laden with talent. Upon speaking with his new coach this week, Thornhill is ready to provide his ball-hawking presence within an aggressive scheme and hopes to help bring the Lombardi Trophy that has evaded Cleveland since its existence.
“He got me pumped up,” Thornhill said. “That’s all I can say. Just already talking a little bit about football, the scheme, how he sees me in the defense. He got me ready to go.”
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