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Report: Browns targeting John Pagano for defensive coordinator

Adam Schefter is reporting on Twitter that Rob Chudzinski is targeting San Diego defensive coordinator Rob Pagano for the same position for the Browns.

I wasn’t thrilled to hear that Chud might want to move away from the 4-3 defense, just because Tom Heckert was drafting for the 4-3 for the past three years, and Jabaal Sheard in particular wouldn’t be a great fir for the 3-4. But Chud clarified his approach in his press conference, emphasizing that he wants an attacking defense and that he believes in scheming around his personnel. He also stressed that the defensive coordinator would make the call and that he could see the Browns running both schemes along with a hybrid scheme that incorporates principles from both.

Pagano ran a 3-4 in San Diego, but here’s a good article where Pagano discusses both schemes along with the hybrid model.

“It’s funny because I got the same types of questions when I took the [job] in San Diego,” John Pagano said. “They said I was a 3-4 guy, but I’ve coached in a 4-3 and a 3-4. We do multiple fronts and we have multiple looks. Baltimore was a 4-3 and a 3-4. They play those different types of hybrid defenses that really are game-changing types of defenses. Whatever your personnel suits you, you’re going to be in certain types of fronts and certain types of coverages whether it’s a 3-4 or a 4-3.

“The biggest difference between a 4-3 and a 3-4 is that you have a lot more linebackers in a 3-4 and you have a little bit bigger linebackers who can standup and come off the edge, which are just like 4-3 defensive ends. When you go to a sub package or a nickel package look, our outside linebackers here in San Diego are defensive ends. They are used to standing up and playing with their hands down. I would suggest multiple looks and multiple fronts.

This quote illustrates the biggest change we’ll see in Cleveland whether Pagano gets the job or not. Chud seems much more open to scheming the defense each week depending on the opponent. Hopefully we won’t see the radical risk-taking of the Rob Ryan years, but we’ll probably see something very different from the vanilla defense run by Dick Jauron which emphasized execution and discipline.

Apart from Sheard, the Browns have very flexible defensive linemen, with Ahtyba Rubin and Fred Taylor being prime candidates for the nose tackle position. Taylor could easily be a dominant defensive end as well in the 3-4, while John Hughes could be another nose tackle candidate. Billy Winn could be a defensive end.

Joe Banner clearly likes the idea of a hybrid defense.

“This is what Chud said to us and frankly this was consistent with all the interviews we did,” Banner said. “Every offensive coach we interviewed we ask them, ‘What is the most difficult thing to play against?’ And the answer in all of those cases was these hybrid 4-3, 3-4, which made it more difficult to know what you were going to be against on any given play.

“So I think it’s clear to say that’s the way the league is headed. We happen to be lucky to think we have a significant number of players that can fit into either a 4-3 or 3-4 and then leave the coordinator the option of being one of these hybrids or committing to either direction.”

This makes some sense, but the more you scheme, the more you increase the chance that your defense will make mistakes. We saw a ton of that with the Rob Ryan/Eric Mangini defenses. They could find ways to stop Tom Brady one weak, and then give up huge plays to mediocre teams as well.

Chud knows the NFL, however, and I’m comfortable with him making these decisions with the front office. This also highlights why I didn’t want Chip Kelly. The NFL has become so complex, and we’re getting an expert in what schemes are out there vs a guy who would have a huge learning curve.

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Weeden and Browns make their debut in Detroit

After a long and eventful offseason, the Browns finally took the field last night in Detroit for their first exhibition game. Here are some first impressions.

- Brandon Weeden came out firing and hit a couple of beautiful throws. He clearly looks like an NFL quarterback. Then he went on to make some typical rookie mistakes and finished with a pedestrian stat line. He threw one ball that should have been intercepted and another that was intercepted. The key for Weeden will be how he learns from mistakes so we have a long way to go in figuring out how successful he will be in the NFL. I love the kid’s demeanor, however. He doesn’t hang his head and he seems to thrive on the challenges in front of him. He offers a refreshing contrast to Colt McCoy who often looks like he’s sulking on the sidelines.

- Travis Benjamin and Jordan Cameron stood out as potential weapons for Weeden. Benjamin flashed his speed and quickness and had no trouble catching the ball. Many have assumed that he’ll just be a slot receiver due to his size, but Benjamin showed he can play on the outside as well as he blew past a defender to catch a long pass from Weeden up the sideline. Cameron also showed his athleticism. He’s big and fast moved easily in space. Let’s hope his back injury isn’t serious. He was smiling as he left the field so it didn’t look too bad.

- I feel terrible for Mohamed Massaquoi. I saw him in camp last week and he looked great, and most camp observers thought he was back from his injuries and could help the receiving corps. But he got hit in the head on his first play of the game and suffered another concussion. Now his career may be in jeopardy.

- There will be a steep learning curve for some of the rookies. Mitchell Schwartz had a tough night at right tackle. He’s been having trouble in camp with Jabaal Sheard and then had trouble last night with the pass rush as well. He’ll have to develop quickly for the Browns as they don’t really have a viable option behind him. Oniel Cousins had looked good in camp but he looked terrible last night playing left tackle with the second team, so the Browns have to hope that Schwartz can win the right tackle job.

- Josh Gordon also had an inauspicious debut. Bernie Kosar pointed out that Gordon needs a lot of work in running routes, which isn’t unusual for rookie receivers. But we saw Travis Benjamin look like a veteran last night, so Gordon needs to step it up. He’s been out of football however and it shows.

- Montario Hardesty looked solid subbing for Trent Richardson as did the other running backs. The Browns should be able to establish a running game this season assuming Richardson’s injury heals as expected, and Hardesty gives them a solid one-two punch.

- I like what I saw of Brad Smelley. He’s not a devastating blocker, but he’s a real receiving threat out of the backfield. Owen Marecic has to show something in order to keep is job.

- The run defense looked terrible last night, but keep in mind that Ahtyba Rubin didn’t play. I watched the d-line closely and the tackles looked much better when Billy Winn and John Hughes were in there. There’s legitimate concern with the injury to Phil Taylor, but if these two rookies develop the line has a chance to be decent.

- They weren’t in there long, but Joe Haden and T.J. Ward looked fantastic last night, which makes the rumored suspension of Haden even that much more disappointing. But from a talent level the secondary has serious upside. Unfortunately, Dimitri Patterson left the game last night with an injury. Let’s hope it’s not serious.

- Colt McCoy had a nice night as he was able to move the ball with his feet and he made some nice throws. But we also saw some of the typical dumpoffs on third down. Overall I like him as one of the backups if the Browns decide to keep him, and frankly I’d be comfortable with Seneca Wallace and Thaddeus Gibson as well. Gibson looked good in garbage time as he drove the Browns to victory in the fourth quarter.

Overall, it was a sloppy game. There were plenty of hysterical reactions on Twitter, most notably from certain radio talk show hosts that were probably off their meds again. But I like the potential of this team and the young players, and I’m anxious to see what they look like when Trent Richardson rejoins the lineup.

The Browns did the right thing in the first round

In Cleveland, plenty of fans questioned the decision to trade down in the first round. The guys on WKNR were all pissed off during their coverage . . . until they calmed down and used their head instead of their emotions.

Outside of Cleveland, EVERYONE knew that the Browns did the right thing when Atlanta offered up a boatload of picks for their #6 selection in the first round.

As for Phil Taylor, clueless fans criticized the pick, but this is the kind of player that can have a significant impact on a defense. Paired with Ahtyba Rubin in the middle of the line, the Browns can now start to match up physically with teams like the Steelers and the Ravens.

It’s a great start for the Browns.

Shape up and shut up

This was the message sent by the new regime to Shaun Smith, but apparently he didn’t listen. After dogging it during practice on Friday, the Browns released Shaun Smith today.

We’re definitely seeing something new with the Eric Mangini regime, and even skeptics like Tony Grossi are noticing a big difference with the new regime. Romeo Crennel’s camp was a pleasure cruise next to the tough, disciplined camp run by Mangini.

Also, Mangini doesn’t take shit from players, so it’s no surprise that they let Smith go. He was always known more for his mouth than his performance.

Listen to how Mangini talks about another lineman, and you get the idea of what kinds of players he likes, and why guys like Smith won’t last long.

With Smith gone, second-year lineman Ahtyba Rubin, the Browns’ sixth-round pick in 2008 out of Iowa State, will most likely see more action behind Rogers and in the line rotation.

“I really like Rubin,” said Mangini. “Rubin is just a consistent guy. He comes in, works like crazy, is stout against the run, and has really improved his hand placement. I like all the things I’ve seen from him.”

None of us will know whether Mangini’s approach will lead to success on the field until we see this team in action, but the renewed emphasis on discipline and execution sure sounds nice after the Crennel fiasco. At the very least, we might finally have a team that we can respect, as opposed to the comedy of errors we’ve witnessed for years.

In the long run, if Mangini puts together a hard-nosed, disciplined team, the fans will give them time to grow into a contender.

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