By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Extra Points …
In Ray they trust: When coordinator Ray Horton talks about the Browns’ new defense, he uses the word trust a lot.
He wants the players converting from the conservative Dick Jauron 4-3 style to “trust the defense.”
He wants Jabaal Sheard, making the transition from left defensive end to right outside linebacker, to “trust the defense.”
He wants defensive backs, who are being interchanged from cornerback to nickel back to safety, to “trust the defense.”
At Thursday’s OTA practice open to the media, which concluded the first of three weeks of full team practices, Horton had Johnson Bademosi and Buster Skrine at times playing a deep safety position.
“I think if you were here (in January) and Coach Chud talked about a hybrid defense. That’s part of what we’re talking about, moving guys around,” Horton said. “Is he a cornerback? Is he a safety? Is it a 3-4?
“It’s athletic men playing. We’re trying to let athletic men find a place to play.”
Mingo junction: Horton was the beneficiary of most of the new player pieces collected by the new Browns’ management. A lot of that had to do with new needs created by switching to a defense that seems at the opposite end of the spectrum from what was in place.
So Horton received new players such as Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant and Quentin Groves in free agency, and Barkevious Mingo and Leon McFadden in the draft.
The centerpiece of the new defense ultimately will be Mingo, the rookie pass rusher from LSU. Horton is making no promises about when, or if, Mingo will start as a rookie.
“He’s a young man that played with his hand in the ground at LSU and now we’re asking him to stand up and do different things, so he’s got a learning curve and a timetable,” Horton said. “We don’t want to rush him. We don’t want to say this is what we we expect. We want it to be a growing process.
“This is not a simple defense. It’s a complicated defense. We want to make sure he learns it.”
Horton will not be dragged into a discussion about weight and whether the lanky Mingo needs to pack on 10 or 15 pounds to survive the rigors of the prominent position in the 3-4.
“I want him to be a dominating player,” Horton said. “Some guys are too big, some too small, some are not fast enough -- but they know how to play. We want athletic football players and he is an athletic football player, and that’s what we want him to be.”
Expectations v. questions: At a football recognition banquet last week, owner Jimmy Haslam told the audience, “You’re gonna really like the way Ray Horton plays defense. He plays defense the way I like to play defense – he gets after them. I watch him at practice and he stands right next to the linebackers. Last year with the Cardinals, I think they blitzed more than any other team but one.”
Given the investment in the new players and the expectations heaped on by Haslam, Horton would seem to be a coach under the microscope this summer.
There are still a lot of questions to be answered. Can the secondary hold up if the rush doesn’t get to the quarterback? How much of an impact will Mingo have? What can Kruger, the ex-Raven, bring when not surrounded by future Hall of Famers? And what about that run defense that nobody is talking about?
“We have a lot of talent and we’re going to try to figure out who fits where best for the Cleveland Browns to play very good defense,” Horton said. “Everywhere I go people are excited, and we’re excited.”
The middle of May is always an exciting football time in Cleveland.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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