Part II of Where We Stand – the Cleveland Browns
In continuing our look of position groups prior to the commencement of training camp, we turn to the defensive side of the football. I understand there is a bit of speculation when breaking down players at this point of a campaign, but until the athletes are putting themselves on game film – that’s all we got at this point. Let’s take a gander at the guys on defense.
Defensive Line: Depth, depth, and more depth – all the Browns need is to keep away from disastrous injuries. Phil Taylor, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, and Danny Shelton man the interior of the group. I figure they should put up more of a resistance against running backs than their counterparts did a year ago. Meanwhile the outside linemen include Desmond Bryant, Randy Starks, John Hughes, Billy Winn, and Xavier Cooper. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil stated he might employ more four-men fronts as he has an arsenal of talent at that position. That appears to be a wise move, especially if Cooper shows his first-step burst he displayed in college. At that point, it’s as almost as if there’s an outside linebacker (speed-wise) playing on the defensive line.
Outside Linebackers: Here is an interesting group for the Cleveland Browns. Barkevious Mingo will be fighting for his job, while Armonty Bryant will do his best to transition from his defensive end spot from a year ago. What should the Browns expect from Nate Orchard? That remains to be seen, but if he can compile tackles and sacks, and either Mingo or Bryant can shine – then Paul Kruger will finally have the company he was hoping for when he signed his free agent deal a few years ago.
Inside Linebackers: This needs to be the year where the Browns go from having a group of serviceable inside linebackers to one where they possess relentless ones who alter game plans. Should the team expect Chris Kirksey, Craig Robertson, and Karlos Dansby to make tackles, excel in coverage, and instill fear? The two youngsters must add to their repertoire beginning in training camp, if they want to become an elite unit. Robertson bettered his coverage skills tremendously in 2014, now he ought to focus on getting to the quarterback and disrupting offenses. I would like to see a fourth member step up in the summer months, will it be veteran Tank Carder or an unsuspecting rookie (i.e. Hayes Pullard)?
Safeties: Not a ton of concern in this group, as the position featured a duo that went to the Pro Bowl. Toss in an improving Jordan Poyer and promising rookie Ibraheim Campbell, and that’s one exceptional gang of safeties. I understand that Donte Whitner is getting long in the tooth and expect to see Poyer (and possibly Campbell) more in passing situations, but the veteran still remains capable on every play. In camp, I will keep an eye on the non-starters to see how they push Whitner and Tashaun Gipson.
Cornerbacks: Another area where the Browns appear to have a dearth of talent. Losing Buster Skrine might have hurt, until they grabbed Tramon Williams in free agency. The group should prevent the big play, but I desire to see what Justin Gilbert, K’Waun Williams, and Pierre Desir can do against Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins (to name a few). If the youngsters appear to pick up this defense, coach O’Neil might have some difficult decisions to make. The talent at cornerback is a plenty, and for the first time in awhile – I think the Browns can actually slow down opposing wide receiving units.