Training Camp Battles: Defense
In the second part of our two-part series, we switch to the other side of the ball and focus on the defense. This unit has nowhere to go but up, as they were either ranked last or near last in several categories in 2015. Thus, the victor in a few competitions for playing time must be head and shoulders above the guy he is replacing from a season ago.
Outside Linebackers: Armonty Bryant severely cost himself this season, with his four-game suspension to begin this September. If many guys on the outside linebacker spots perform well in camp, the veteran might be released following his mandated time off. That said, the Browns have Paul Kruger, Nate Orchard, Barkevious Mingo, and Emmanuel Ogbah as a few worthy members who will man the outside linebacker roles. Mingo has fallen out of favor (for me and many others), so if the other three can provide a steady rotation – then perhaps this can become a reliable unit for the Browns.
Inside Linebackers: Christian Kirksey is the lone remaining man in the middle from a season ago. I would venture to say that he will be a starter once again in 2016, but who will join him? Free agent acquisition Demario Davis is the likely choice. Joe Schobert and Scooby Wright will more than likely begin their professional career on special teams (provided they make the final cuts). However, if one can excel at a single thing (pass coverage, pass rush, etc.), then they might be on the field sooner rather than later. Justin Tuggle, the free agent pickup appears to be a long shot for playing time.
Safeties: Turnover was in full force for the safety position after last year’s disappointment. Ibraheim Campbell is looking to fill the void (left by Whitner and Gipson) at one spot; will Jordan Poyer become the other full-time starter? Rahim Moore was brought in this offseason – and with his poor 2015 outing, he will have something to prove in Cleveland. There have also been rumors that former cornerback Pierre Desir could be shuffled to safety this campaign. Coach Horton needs to find guys who can support the run and stay with their man on passing situations (neither of which occurred in 2015).
Defensive Line: John Hughes and Danny Shelton are the favorites as starters for this defensive line. However, the key decision will be who will be putting in time as a reserve. Carl Nassib, Jamie Meder, and Xavier Cooper will be attempting to get some opportunities upfront. I would like to say that the Browns finally have depth at their defensive line – however they must play up to their capabilities in order for this to occur.