BEREA - Facing life without Jamir Miller is something that Butch Davis is prepared to handle.
Davis said Sunday that he had discussed with his staff possible options if the Pro Bowl outside linebacker had held out in a contract dispute. There was conjecture that Miller might not be on hand when training camp opened unless he had a new contract or his current deal was made sweeter.
Miller never missed a day. He reported on time, receiving assurances from the front office that incentives would be added to his contract.
What Davis didn't expect was the season-ending injury suffered last Saturday by Miller in a preseason game against Minnesota. Miller tore his right Achille's tendon on a Vikings' touchdown run in the first quarter.
"I always felt like he would be here, but you always have to have Plan B ready," Davis said. "We said, 'If this happens, what will happen.' You might see two or three different guys with the first team."
Davis is trying to put the injury behind him. He dwelled as much as possible on the positives in the Browns' 27-15 win over the Vikings.
"We're going to overcome it," Davis said. "As in the case last year when we lost a whole lot of guys. A lot of guys stepped up. We hadn't envisioned Jamir being a major impact in nickel (defense) until Courtney (Brown) went down. We'll find someone to step up and play well. Our expectations won't diminish because Jamir isn't there.
"New guys will step up. It doesn't have to come from the same exact positional player. We have solid leadership on this team. I don't think that will be a tough thing."
There are several options Davis and his staff are discussing in dealing with the Miller issue. One of the rookie linebackers (perhaps Kevin Bentley) could move in with the first group. Lenoy Jones, an oft-injured seven-year veteran, is another possibility, as are veterans Marquis Smith, Anthony Denman and Michael Smith.
Marquis Smith stepped in after Miller was carted off the field. He's making a transition from strong safety, a position at which he often struggled.
"The coverage aspect isn't as difficult (for Marquis Smith) because he's been down in the box as a safety," Davis said. "He's inserted into piles and not been afraid to collision players. It's now kind of put up or shut up for him."
Bentley, one of three rookie linebackers drafted this year, would be the most likely first-year player to have increased playing time. He has plenty of speed, but at 6-foot-0 and 243 pounds he lacks the size of the 6-5, 255-pound Miller.
Davis had to scramble to realign the defense last season due to injuries to ends Keith McKenzie and Brown. Brown missed the first six games with a sprained knee. In the first half of Brown's first game back, McKenzie broke an ankle. Brown played in just five games before suffering a high ankle sprain.
"In retrospect when looking back at Jamir's contribution (in 2001), there was a certain element when he was a legitimate linebacker," Davis said. "Then there was half the season when he played as a pass rusher. With Courtney healthy and guys like Tyrone Rogers and Kenard Lang, we have guys at defensive end we think can help us absorb the blow."
NOT BAD: Davis singled out the play of quarterbacks Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb against the Vikings. He also praised the performance staged by Jamel White, who caught a 45-yard scoring pass from Couch.
Defensively, Davis liked the aggressiveness shown by the secondary. He was pleased with what he saw of cornerback Lewis Sanders, who missed last season due to leg surgery.
Davis wasn't happy with the number of penalties (the Browns were whistled 15 times for 124 yards) and the ineffectiveness of the offense and defense on third-down situations. Dennis Northcutt made a mental error when he returned a punt after signaling for a fair catch.