Browns report: Inside slant
The biggest question about the Cleveland Browns
defense remains the linebacking position.
Butch Davis cleaned out his veteran linebackers
from a year ago, getting rid of Jamir Miller,
Earl Holmes, Dwayne Rudd and Darren Hambrick.
He decided instead to go with younger players.
The moves caused much consternation among fans
and teammates, but in some ways they made sense.
The Browns defense was not strong a year ago, and
second-half collapses against Indianapolis and
Pittsburgh led to bitter defeats.
Why not try something new?
The question, though, is that all the young
linebackers the team has are generally unproven.
Eliminate Brant Boyer, a valuable special teamer
and backup, and Barry Gardner, a free-agent
signee, is the lone veteran with experience. But
his four years in Philadelphia were a
disappointment after the Eagles took him with a
second-round draft pick.
In the Browns second minicamp, Gardner was the
starter in the middle -- between second-year
players Kevin Bentley and Ben Taylor.
The team clearly would like second-year player
Andra Davis to take over the middle. It seems
that Davis goes out of his way to praise Davis
and/or bolster his confidence.
"There hasn't been a drill where he doesn't do
something that catches your eye," Davis said of
It would seem that if that were true, though,
Andra Davis would be ahead of Gardner.
On the outside, Taylor and Bentley seem to have
the inside track over rookie Chaun Thompson, whom
the team will bring along. But Butch Davis said
his goal is to get the best three linebackers on
the field, regardless of position. So it's
conceivable Gardner could move outside if Andra
Davis comes along.
The Browns are projecting based on their belief
in their young players. They really aren't sure
what they have in the linebackers except they
know they like them.
The team's other source of confidence seems to be
in the system run by Dave Campo.
"The system is linebacker friendly," safety
Robert Griffith said.
Which means it doesn't ask a lot of players
except to run to the ball.
That system made players like Dixon Edwards and
Dexter Coakley a lot of money. Both played well
in Dallas, and parlayed it into free-agent deals
-- Edwards with the Vikings, Coakley in Dallas.
If fans aren't sure about the players, they can
be sure about the results in Dallas, where the
Cowboys won Super Bowls with a number of
different linebackers starting.
Until the games start and people see what the
Browns truly have, that will be the main source
of confidence for the fans.
Browns report: Notes, quotes, anecdotes
--The Browns extended the contract of defensive
end Mark Word one year. Word proved to be a
valuable backup last season, when he had eight
sacks. He provides some insurance if Courtney
Brown does not rebound from microfracture surgery
on his knee, but he has to learn to play the run
better to be a valuable every-down contributor.
--Davis is hard on some players, but he continues
to stand by Gerard Warren.
"Gerard Warren has got my unanimous support,"
Davis continues to attribute Warren's second-year
funk to immaturity.
"He wants to be a great player; he wants to be a
leader," Davis said. "I don't think it's
something that he has done any different from a
lot of guys in professional sport. You come in
and have a pretty solid year and get a lot of
money and you kind of get a little bit