Tales from the In-Box: Front Seven

Lane discusses some of the key questions about the Browns reconfigured front seven, including the prospect of further improvements. What would signing a player like LB Takeo Spikes mean for the Browns?

Q: The acquisition of Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers should mean that the Browns run defense will be improved. Do you see Rogers coming in and becoming the dominant player he was a couple seasons ago? 

LA:  If Rogers is utilized correctly, I see him as a player that can be a disruptive force within the interior of the Cleveland defensive line. The Browns intend on utilizing a rotation along the defensive line, which should keep players 'fresher' later in games and throughout the season. Rogers at 340#, playing maybe 40 snaps a game would be significantly better than a Rogers at 360+# playing 70+snaps per game.

Q: Corey Williams appears to be a player that has come out of nowhere and suddenly becomes a hot commodity. With that, did the Browns overpay him for what he has done in the league and can he really help the issue at defensive end?

LA: Williams comes off a couple of solid seasons in Green Bay and is very capable. What you see in Williams is consistent performance - he is not a world-beater that takes over a game. When looking for an end in the 3-4, you want a player who can hold-up linemen, penetrate, and make plays. Williams has displayed the ability to do all of these, plus he is a great locker room guy.

Q: Many people laud the moves by the Browns so far this offseason, but I am skeptical that the defensive line is going to be that much better. None of players are simply outstanding in their own right.

LA: The talent upgrade from the end of the 2007 season is significant. What makes the potential of this line impressive is taking a look at the players as a whole. Williams improves as a player due to having Rogers lined-up next to him. Robaire Smith will be much more of a recognizable figure with Rogers and Williams along the line. Shaun Smith was solid playing inside and should only improve flanked by Smith, Williams, and Rogers. If these players remain healthy, I see very good things on the horizon for the Cleveland defense, as the game starts in the trenches.

Q: It's great the Browns have addressed the defensive line, but what is the story at inside linebacker? Can the team improve in this area, as the linebackers have to make plays?

LA: The new faces along the defensive line will make a major impact, but the play of the linebackers is going to be critical if this team is going to play defense at a true championship caliber. These linemen will help keep blockers from reaching the second-level of defense, but the linebackers simply have to make plays and cannot be guessing on the holes and reacting after the point of attack. A few inside linebackers remain on the market that could help this team, with the recently released Takeo Spikes or Al Wilson being by far the best. The Browns have been in contact with both players. A playmaker on the inside is critical and I am skeptical the team has such a player on the roster, though Leon Williams could potentially thrive in such a role with his aggressive nature and physical ability.

Q: Are the Browns content in heading into the 2008 season with the cast of outside linebackers on the roster?

LA: I would have to so, no. The organization has sought an outside linebacker with the ability to get to the quarterback and provide quality depth. Chaun Thompson remains a possibility to re-sign with the team and the organization has had some back-and-forth with Clark Haggans. At this time, the player may come from within the roster, especially if the organization can sign an experienced player that can play inside and possibly on the outside.

Q: If Takeo Spikes is signed, what does that mean for Andra Davis and Leon Williams?

LA: A Spikes signing could limit the opportunities for a player such as Williams, but it might also prove to enhance his potential. Spikes is a veteran player with experience both inside and outside. The team knows that Williams can play outside as well is inside. Right now, it seems like the thinking is that Williams will stay inside, but the team will put the best 11-players that fit the scheme onto the field. As for Andra Davis, he is an inside linebacker and could be the odd-man out of the starting lineup if there is a Spikes sighting in Cleveland. Due to the injury issues Spikes has faced over the past few seasons, releasing Davis would be a tough call.


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