Following another change at Head Coach, the Cleveland Browns replaced Defensive Coordinator Dick Jauron with Ray Horton. Browns fans may be familiar with Horton from his time coach with the rival (don’t we need to win some before we are rivals again) Pittsburgh Steelers. Horton was in the same role with the Arizona Cardinals the last few years as he was hired with the Browns. Prior to being hired Horton was interviewed for at least 2 head coaching positions, the Cardinals’ and the Browns’. Once Bruce Arians was hired to take over in Arizona, Horton was hired by Rob Chudzinski and the Browns. This week we will look at stats from last year’s Cardinals defense and compare those to expectations for Browns players. Looking at history gives us perspective on what could be in store for the Browns defense. We will follow this up next week with looking at Norv Turner’s San Diego Offense. Today we look at the Defensive Lineman.
Earlier this week we looked at Horton’s History: Linebackers.
In 2012 the Cardinals depth chart had Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams and Calais Campbell in the front 3 of the Arizona 34 defense.
Dockett played DE in the 34 defense for Horton last year. The 6’4″ 290 pound Dockett has 10 years experience in the NFL and is crafty veteran. Last year Dockett played in 15 games accounting for 23 tackles and 1.5 sacks. In the 34 defense the DEs primarily are responsible for holding blocks and stopping the run game. Taking up offensive lineman so the linebackers can flow to the ball was his primary goal.
Browns Comparable: Ahtyba Rubin
Rubin played inside as a DT in the Browns 43 defense last year. Rubin stands 6’2″ and weighs 330 lbs. As the DT for Jauron’s defense last year Rubin played in 13 games but still accounted for 30 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 Forced Fumbles. Rubin was more responsible to create bigger plays then he will be asked to do in the 34. Different then Docket is Rubin’s weight. With 40 extra pounds Rubin will be able to set the edge and take on blockers better then Dockett did. Expect similar stats for Rubin this year as he had last year. Jabaal Sheard also possibly will spend sometime replacing Rubin in pass rushing situations, which could limit his stats. A year of health where he can play in all 16 games may assist him.
Williams played the Nose Tackle position in the 34 defense. Williams is somewhat small for NT in the 34, standing at 6’3″ and 314 pounds. Like stated wit Dockett the primary role in the 34 defensive line is to take on as many blockers as possible. Williams, a 4 year vet was drafted in the first round and is improving every year. Last year Williams accounted for 33 tackles and 1 fumble recovery.
Browns Comparable: Phil Taylor
Like Rubin, Taylor played as a DT in the 43 defense last year in Cleveland. Taylor going into his 3rd year out of Baylor will transition into the NT position in Horton’s defense this year. Taylor has an extra 20 pounds on Williams and both standing 6’3″. Last year only played in 8 games due to injury last year. During his half season Taylor only had 12 tackles, 1 sack and 1 fumble recovery. The hope as while healthy Taylor’s athleticism can help him make sure he gets double teamed inside, freeing up inside linebackers to make plays. Expect significant statistical increases based on health. Taylor’s process this off-season, when he got hurt last year lifting weights, is key to him developing his body.
Campbell was the most dominate defensive lineman for the Cardinals last year. Standing at 6’8″ Campbell stands over every defensive lineman. He is a lean 300 pounds at his height which allows him to use his long arms to create separation. Last year Campbell totaled 50 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Campbell’s physical stature allowed him to rush the passer and make stops in the run game behind the line.
Browns Comparable: Desmond Bryant
Bryant, one of 2 big time free agent signings for the team this off-season, is the closest in physical proximity to Campbell. The 6’6″ 310 pound Bryant played last season with the Raiders. Bryant played all 16 games last year but played in a variety of positions on the defensive line. Bryant still was able to rack up 26 tackles, 4 sacks and 1 FF. Since Horton was apart of bringing Bryant in it is expected that the Browns will unleash him in multiple ways. Expect Bryant to put up statistics similar to Campbell, with the possibility of dynamic plays such as forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.
When we reviewed the linebackers position it was surprising to not see more dynamic plays including limited sacks. On the defensive line only Campbell’s stats stood out as impressive. It will be interesting to see whether when we review the secondary if their sack number is higher then expected. Though the defensive line in the 34 is responsible to force themselves to be double teamed so that the linebackers can be open to make plays. Last year’s stats show that Horton’s defense had lower then expected dynamic plays from their front 7.