By: Will Burge
I think it’s safe to say that new Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes big men that can run and little men that can hit. As he repeated the phrase nearly a dozen times during his introductory press conference, a smile stretched from ear to ear on the 52 year old NFL veteran.
“Big men that can run and little men that can hit,” seemed to be Horton’s way of appeasing a fan base and media who has been mired in fear about the move from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. As Horton explains it, there is no need to put labels on the defense because they will only defy them.
“What are we? I don’t really care what we are on defense, I want to know what we are going to look like,” Horton said. “We may be a 3-4 on one snap, we may be a 4-3 on another snap, I guarantee you we will be a 5-2 sometimes and we will be a 4-4 sometimes. We are a multi-front attacking defense and that’s the most important thing.”
With all that versatility, it would only be natural to expect a fair amount of turnover on the defensive side of the football. Or maybe not.
Horton sat in front of the media and laughed off the notion that the Browns current roster cannot run his defense.
“Yes I did (look thoroughly through the defensive roster before accepting the job),” said Horton. “What I saw was in my opening statement, big men that can run and little men that can hit. If you give me those two things we will be a good defense.”
He added later, “I love this team, I love the way it’s constituted right now.”
So the Browns will move into free agency and the draft with two types of players in mind: Big men that can run and little men that can hit. Once those players are in place, success is what Horton expects.
“The thing I’m most excited about is I have a group of athletes that can run and hit,” said Horton. “They’re not limited to just saying ‘coach line me up in a specific front or number system,’ just run and hit.”
The night that news broke Ray Horton would take over as defensive coordinator, Joe Haden tweeted how excited he was for the hire. It is important for defensive leaders to trust and respect their coordinator and it seems as though Horton has already partially established those traits with some of his guys.
“(Players) have contacted me which is fantastic. D’Qwell (Jackson) called me as soon as I got here and he is anxious,” said Horton. “I have to establish something which is trust and that’s all I want them to do. I don’t want them to do anything but trust me.”
One thing is certain, Horton’s passion is contagious and he knows how to captivate a room. He commanded his press conference like one of the elite quarterbacks he will have to shut down from Cleveland’s sideline.
Now that the Browns all-star staff is in place and all three power position coaches could have run their own teams this season, it’s time to prove it on the field. It will be an uphill battle for Horton who takes over a defense who has only finished in the top 10 in points allowed three times since 1999.
|Will Burge covers the Browns for ESPNCleveland.com and hosts 3 Deep, Monday - Friday from 7pm-9pm.|
Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge
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