2006 Browns Preview: Defense

Defensive Line: Romeo Crennel continues to mold this defense into a 3-4 team and for it to be successful, a lot rides on the performance of this position. The primary responsibility for the lineman in the 3-4 is to be a space-eater and tie up blockers so the linebackers can run free and make tackles. The Browns made a lot of moves this off-season, one of which was signing massive 16-year veteran Ted Washington. The 365-pounder will be counted on ďheavilyĒ to do the dirty work for the line. Washington will join Orpheus Roye and Alvin McKinley as the starters on the defensive line. Look for Ethan Kelley, Nick Eason, and possibly even Simon Fraser to be in the rotation as the season progresses. Itís no secret that the Browns have had major issues stopping the run ever since their return to football. For this defense to have any chance of succeeding, controlling the ground game should be Plan 1A and 1B. It will be the job of these men to help in that category and keep the opposing teamís line off of our linebackers. Washington was a tremendous addition not only in the fact that heís a big dude, but also because he has experience in the 3-4 and knows what it takes to succeed in the system.

Linebackers: Andra Davis will once again anchor the middle after signing a five-year extension in the off-season. The Davis signing was a decision often forgotten about but a move which was crucial to the future of not only Davis, but the Browns. They now hold a legitimate inside linebacker for years to come. Playing next to Andra at the other inside linebacker spot will either be Chaun Thompson, who the Browns decided to move from the outside, or second-round draft pick DíQwell Jackson. In one of the more interesting training camp battles, Jackson may very well give Thompson a run for his money. While Thompson has the NFL experience and is very athletic, Jackson has superior instincts and may prove to be tougher. This season could serve as a make or break year for Thompson, who is still hanging around from the Butch Davis era. On the outside, Willie McGinest will hold one spot and will likely be joined by Matt Stewart. Heís getting towards the downside of his career but McGinest is ready to prove that he still has some gas left in the tank. He will hopefully provide the pass rush the Browns have been lacking and serve as a mentor to rookie Kamerion Wimbley. Crennel likes to work his rookies in slowly so don’t expect much early on from Wimbley. Notable reserves for the linebacking corps include Mason Unck, Nick Speegle, and David McMillan. Overall, this unit should be much improved from last year in the pass rush category.

Cornerbacks: A definite strength of their defense, the cornerback position is one that the Browns should feel very satisfied with. Browns fans will see the return of Gary Baxter, who exited early last season with a pulled chest muscle. Baxter will be the number one guy with Daylon McCutcheon and Leigh Bodden filling the next two corner spots. Bodden had a sensational 2005 campaign and flashed characteristics of a shut-down corner. Arguably his best game came against Chad Johnson when he limited him to only a few catches. Fighting for the fourth corner position will be 2005 draft pick Antonio Perkins, Pete Hunter, acquired from the Jets last year, and possibly 2006 pick DeMario Minter. If the front seven does their job and puts pressure on the quarterback, it will make these cornerbacksí job a lot easier.

Safety: Brian Russell will return for his second season with the Browns and will occupy one safety position. The other will likely go to either Sean Jones or Brodney Pool. These two have played in limited action for a couple reasons. Pool was a rookie last season and Jones has been battling injuries for the past two seasons. One of the other key training camp battles will be between these two. Itíll be up to one of them to step up and prove they can be a quality NFL starter. Jones and Pool offer a boatload of potential but thatís all it is at this point. As far as backups go, the Browns donít have a whole lot of depth when it comes to the safety position. No reserve has more than three years of NFL experience, which is cause for concern if one of the starters were to go down due to injury.

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