Rob Ryan will be the personality of the Browns defense. Ryan, in his first year with the Browns after spending the last five seasons with the Oakland Raiders in the same role, didn’t hesitate to describe what the Browns defense will be like – in 2009 and beyond.
“I know one thing, we’ll be an attacking defense and an exciting defense,” Ryan said.
“I’ve had success coaching both in college and the pros, and I can tell you that my guys always play hard. They play like (heck). The number of times my guys have quit I can count on one hand.
“They’re going to fight and play just like the people in Cleveland would want us to.”
Ryan inherits a unit that, like the team overall in the eventual 4-12 finish, struggled in 2008. That was especially true in stopping the run, where the Browns finished 28 in the 32-team NFL by giving up an average of 151.9 yards per game, and in sacks, where the club had just 17 last year, the lowest total since the franchise began tabulating sack totals in 1963.
“I know the last three years we didn’t stop the run (in Oakland), but in my life, I’ve stopped the run. You can look it up,” Ryan said. “And we’ll get it done here. We had a rough year in Oakland, not just defensively, but I’m not going to point any fingers.”
Ryan is correct. The Raiders did well defensively, particularly a gainst the run, in his first couple years with them.
He particularly likes two of the pieces he has in Cleveland, Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers and lightning-quick inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, and thinks they can help the run defense get turned around.
“I’ve been around a lot of good players, a lot of good defensive linemen,” Ryan said. “I was around Warren Sapp (in Oakland). But Shaun Rogers is tremendous, absolutely tremendous.” Ryan said he’s “really impressed” with Jackson.
“The sky’s the limit for that young man,” he said. “A blind man can see his talent.”
As for increasing the sack totals, Ryan said, “Obviously, 17 is a low number. I’m not sure what the problems were. I’m sure we’ll do better, but it’s a work in progress.”
Ryan, though, knows how important sacks are in the performance of a defense as a whole. While he was still going to college, he got to watch his father, Buddy Ryan, serve as defensive coordinator of the 1985 Chicago Bears as they bludgeoned their way to a Super Bowl title.
“Growing up watching the Bears, you could see that getting a lot of sacks was a great style of play for the fans,” he said. “But sacks also allow you to get off the field and, most importantly, create turnovers.”
Outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley could be key in getting more sacks. After all, in 2006 he set a club rookie record by getting 11 sacks. But he’s had two less than that – nine – in the last two years combined.
“Numbers don’t always tell the whole story,” Ryan said. “The young man has a great ability to rush the passer. We’re working with him to use his hands well, and we’re also working with him on doing more bull rushing and speed rushing.”
He added, “I think he’ll have a tremendous season for us.”
The Browns base defense will be a 3-4, but Ryan said he’ll use some of the famed 46 scheme his dad made famous. “Eric (Mangini, head coach) is a huge fan of the 46,” he said. “He was the one who got them to run it in New England.”
There will be other looks – other nuances – as well. “We want to be multiple,” Ryan said. “We want to have multiple players in different spots to cause confusion.”