BEREA,Ohio-Ray Horton has seen a lot in his 33 years in the NFL. But he doesn't remember having as young of a starting defense in his 23 years of coaching in the NFL.
“No, but it is what we wanted to do," Horton said. "We wanted to revamp and go and put some young players out there and we are. I’m excited for them. They are bright eyed. They have learned the system. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Part of that kaleidoscope that I was talking about is guys at different positions at different times being in.
"Really, it is exciting to watch them grow because the veterans, they get it," he said. "They have been there, but the young guys, we do not know what to expect from them. We know what to hope, but it is really different on Sunday of NFL football versus preseason. I have tried to prepare our guys for the hype and the emotion and the adrenaline and the hyperventilation that is going to go on. I just want to make sure they do not forget their helmets on the sideline and go play some football for us.”
The Browns have two rookie outside linebackers starting and another rookie at defensive end expecting to get a lot of playing time in Emmanuel Ogbah, Joe Schobert and Carl Nassib. Besides those three, defensive linemen Xavier Cooper and Danny Shelton are in just their second seasons, while safety Ibraheim Campbell is in his second season, as well. Horton said the rookies have been coming on quickly.
“Just the growth. It has been quick," he said. "We have seen these guys since May and more their personalities, watching them and watching them mature really quickly. I do not think they knew they were going to play this fast, but they are. For me, it is just trying to calm them down and maybe they don’t know. Sometimes, it is good that you don’t know. I have watched these guys. When you watch Emmanuel, we have moved him from different positions, which I think has really helped him. I think he gets a better understanding of football by position because he stood up, he has been on the ground, meaning hand on the ground and he has played it from outside so he’s had different lenses, if you will, views, which will make him a better player, more valuable player for us because he now can play more than one position. (DB) Tracy Howard has been the same thing. Joe Schobert has been outstanding. He is really so wise beyond his years. He is so quiet but just been very effective for us. Carl, we keep saying young guys and (DB) Derrick (Kindred) is going to play for us. When I said, ‘If you have a helmet, you are going to play,’ they are. We are not trying to blow smoke anywhere. We are going to play our guys. We are going to roll them through and let them play football.”