Will Wimbley Bounce Back?

The Browns linebacker hopes his third year is the charm. With new line help, the Browns are setting him up to bounce back after a tougher sophomore season. Marty Gitlin talks to the linebacker, to see how he is looking at the upcoming season...

Of all the athletes in major American sports, football players are the most dependent on teammates for their own individual success.

Receivers can't catch passes without the accuracy of their quarterback. Running backs can't churn out the yards without effective blocking from their offensive linemen. And linebackers can't make plays if the defensive linemen are being pushed back.

Which brings us to Kamerion Wimbley.

The Browns' outside linebacker took the NFL by storm in 2006, setting a team record for a rookie with 11 sacks and adding eight tackles for losses. But increased attention a year ago meant that he required greater help from the defensive line to continue maximizing his potential.

It didn't happen. The line performed woefully, allowing opposing offenses to key even more on Wimbley. And though he recorded nearly identical numbers in other categories last season, he registered just five sacks and two tackles for losses. He continued making plays, but not nearly as many big ones.

This year, there might be no excuse. The addition of established defensive linemen Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams via trades should strengthen the front considerably and allow Wimbley to attack the quarterback with greater freedom.

He's looking forward to it.

"I'm really excited," he said Tuesday after the last of three OTAs in May. "I'm optimistic just like everybody here in Cleveland. I'm interested in seeing (Rogers and Williams) come in and work. They're great guys with a great work ethic and I'm looking forward to working with them.

"Hopefully this is going to translate into more sacks. That's why we brought those guys in. They're excited to be here to put more pressure on the quarterback and I'm going to try to add to that."

It is hoped that the influx of Rogers and Williams, in addition to the continued development of fellow lineman Shaun Smith and linebackers such as Wimbley and Antwan Peek, will provide an upgrade to the overall pass rush.

Nobody knows for certain if that will happen until the regular season begins, but Wimbley believes there has been a stronger emphasis on that phase of the game during the offseason.

"We've been doing a lot more pass rushing this year," he says. "Obviously, last year we didn't have as many sacks as we would have liked to have. That's an area we've been focusing on, getting more reps and working with our interior guys as well, plus watching more pass rushing from different teams and learning different techniques."

Technique is one thing, talent is quite another. Without both, opposing quarterbacks will be keeping their uniforms clean this season.

"If we can get some push in the middle from those big guys and they can push the middle of the pocket, the quarterback will not be able to step up," Crennel said. "And that will help Wimbley because he's an edge rusher primarily and he does bring some pressure off the edge.

"If we can get push in the middle the quarterback has to stay in that spot, then those speed guys have a chance."

Though criticized by some for a lack of production in 2007, Wimbley doesn't believe his performance was significantly worse than it was as a rookie. He does feel, however, that he lost out on some opportunities to wreak havoc. And he knows there's certainly room for improvement.

"I can always get better," he said. "Going back to last year, watching it on film, it was a good year. I don't think it was a down year. As a defense, it wasn't what we would have liked, but personally it was a step up for me in terms of recognizing different plays and formations and being able to react to them.

"There were a lot of sacks I could have had, that I was close to, that I just didn't make. You know, in my first year I made those plays. Hopefully, this year when it comes close like that, I'll be able to make them again."

The Browns sure hope so. They can certainly use 11 sacks and eight tackles for losses from somebody this season.

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