Learning From Last Year
By Zac Jackson
This report filed June 24, 2003
Marvin Harrison. Terrell Owens. Torry Holt. Rod
Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, and Antwaan Randle
El? Yup, the Steelers are the reigning AFC North
Champions and have beaten the Browns six straight
They're on the schedule twice.
If you're a Browns defensive back, you know the
challenges that lie ahead. You've had a few
months to reflect on the good, bad, and ugly of
2002. You've had a chance to recover, to train,
to prepare for 2003.
You remember Tommy Maddox and the Steelers
staging an improbable comeback to win that AFC
Wildcard Playoff Game. You remember the empty,
sickening feeling it left in your stomach. You
probably won't ever forget.
"All you can do is learn from last year's
mistakes," Browns CB Daylon McCutcheon said.
"Ending the season with that type of loss,
especially to Pittsburgh, left a nasty taste in
everyone's mouth. I know it was hard on me. It's
always going to be there, and it's on us to turn
it around against those guys."
"Brutal," said S Earl Little. "It was
disappointing that we lost that game. Giving
somebody 20, 22 points in the fourth quarter
really hurt. It hurt bad."
To be a successful defensive back in the NFL, you
need great speed, great footwork, and a nose for
the football. Want another key ingredient? How
about a short memory?
What's ahead is what really counts.
"That's the way the ball bounced," Little said of
the Pittsburgh game. "We lost. It's over with.
It's in the history books now."
"We need to look at ourselves and figure out how
we're going to finish what we started,"
McCutcheon said. "When we have a team on the
ropes, let's knock 'em out."
The Browns have a new Defensive Coordinator (Dave
Campo) and a new outlook. They'll have two
experienced and talented safeties (Little and
Robert Griffith) behind McCutcheon at right
corner and Anthony Henry on the left, where he
played in college. They've got promising young
talent in Lewis Sanders, Michael Jameson, and
rookie draft picks Chris Crocker and Michael
"I'm excited about the team we have," Griffith
said. "We have a lot of new people making plays.
It makes me feel like a rookie again."
Said McCutcheon: "The keys to the new defense are
get after the quarterback, keep it simple, and
don't make mistakes. It comes down to how fast we
gel together and how fast we learn the defense.
This can be a very good group."
Henry shined in a nickel back role as a rookie,
picking off an AFC-high 10 passes. His role was
expanded last season as he started 10 games and
often matched up with the opponent's number one
receiver. He struggled and finished the year with
just two interceptions-both at New Orleans on
"You can think you're ready all you want,'' Henry
said. "My first year, people would have thought I
was ready, but they didn't understand the
situation I was in. Now I have to get that feel.
That second year kind of let me know where I am.
"I started a few games last year, and that kind
of gave me the little bit of patience that I
need. That's why I feel more comfortable now,
because I know what to expect."
Henry didn't pout about last year's struggles. He
instead took his frustrations to the weight room
and dedicated himself to getting better. So far,
so good, as he was one of seven players honored
by the coaching staff for extraordinary effort in
the offseason conditioning program.
"(Henry) has run his guts out," Head Coach Butch
Davis said. "He has lifted. He's stronger and
leaner and he's more physical."
The hope-and theme--in Berea is that Henry's work
ethic and attitude are contagious. The countdown
to 2003 is on.
"I'm coming back this year, getting ready, and
just watching everybody come in everyday and work
out," Little said. "And we're looking real good.
I can't wait to get the season started."