Completing the Conversion

In 2006, the Browns intend to complete the conversion to the 3-4 defense which they started last season. Players like Andra Davis (pictured) have learned that finishing the switch includes a significant mental component...

Defensive changes made in the offseason should complete the conversion the Browns began last year when coach Romeo Crennel switched to a 3-4 defense from a 4-3. He made the switch schematically last year even though he knew he did not have the personnel to make the switch successfully.

The biggest addition, literally and figuratively, was signing nose tackle Ted Washington in free agency. Washington weighs around 375 pounds and is a huge upgrade from Jason Fisk, the starting nose tackle in 2005 who also was a free agent acquisition.

Three of the first four players drafted were linebackers -- first-round pick Kamerion Wimbley, a defensive end being converted to outside linebacker; second-round pick D'Qwell Jackson, an inside linebacker, and Leon Williams, an inside linebacker taken with the first of two fourth-round picks.

Cornerback Gary Baxter is 100 percent after missing 10 games last season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Last year before training camp started, inside linebacker and defensive captain Andra Davis said it didn't matter if he was in a 4-3 or a 3-4.

"Football is football," he said. But he soon discovered he was naive.

As important as the personnel changes are, the biggest difference between last season and 2006 is a familiarity with the defense. Crennel and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham are able to build on what was used last season. Significantly, Crennel kept his entire coaching staff intact.

"We were fundamental going into our mini-camp last year," Crennel said. "This year, rather than playing our base zone coverage, I can add some variations to that zone or a couple of different man (defenses). They're ready to take the next step.

"During the course of the year last year, we did add some things as we went along because we were able to handle the defense better. It didn't always make us play better. Hopefully, we can play better and add things this year."

Punting the football was an adventure the last two years with Derrick Frost and Kyle Richardson, but that position has been stabilized with the free-agent addition of Dave Zastudil from the Ravens. Richardson ranked 30th in the NFL with a 34.0-yard net average. Zastudil ranked 23rd with a 35.7 average.

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