If there is such a thing as an Eric Mangini guy, then it's Browns inside linebacker Eric Barton.
A tough, hard-nosed player who doesn't cause a fuss and just does what he's asked to do, he's starting his fourth year with Mangini as his head coach. He came to the New York Jets in 2004, two seasons before Mangini arrived to begin a three-year stint, and they both came to Cleveland this offseason, with Barton signing as a free agent.
"Eric is definitely a Mangini guy," D'Qwell Jackson, the other starter at inside linebacker and a fellow Maryland product, said after Thursday's minicamp practice.
As such, Barton might be the most important man in the Browns locker room for players wanting to stay on the coach's good side.
"I'm able to give the guys a heads up on what ticks Coach Mangini off -- what he likes and doesn't like," Barton said.
What Mangini likes – a lot – is Barton's smarts.
"I've always been impressed with Eric's overall intelligence, and his football intelligence," the coach said. "He is an incredibly smart player. It's not just his ability to pick up information, but also his ability to process that information on the field.
"He can see a formation and anticipate a play."
If Barton can indeed do that, then it will be a big boost to the Browns defensively, especially against the run, where they have struggled since returning to the field in 1999. The Browns were ranked 26th overall defensively in the 32-team NFL last year, and 28th against the run.
In the nine seasons prior to that, the Browns were ranked 27th, 29th, 30th, 32nd, 23 rd, 27th, 29th, 29th and 31st (last) in run defense. If you can't stop the run, then your defense can't get off the field on third down. And when that happens, it makes it extremely hard for you to win. Thus, it's no surprise that the Browns haven't won much in this expansion era, as they are just 54-106.
So aside from determining who their starting quarterback is between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, figuring out how to stop – or at least slow down – the run is No. 1 on the Browns' to-do list for 2009.
That's where Barton comes in. He helped Mangini's Jets finish seventh against the run last year.
"Run defense is a team thing," Barton said. "It's just sound technique and shedding blocks.
"When everybody buys into this defense, it will work."
A tackling machine at Maryland – Barton finished fourth on the school's career tackles list – he was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 1999 NFL Draft. He played with them for five seasons, through 2003, and played well in the team's march to Super Bowl XXXVIII following the ‘02 season.
He had an interception in the fourth quarter of a 30-10 divisional playoff win over the Jets, then forced a fumble in the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game that led to the go-ahead touchdown in a 41-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans. He went on to have 13 tackles in the 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.
In 2003, he had a career-high 132 total tackles and last season was the only Jet to get over 100 tackles, finishing with 119. He has 20 career sacks, including six in 2003 and 4.5 in '06 when he went to the Jets.
"Eric has already played 10 years in this league," Jackson said. "The things he's able to see because of that experience, really helps me."
Added the 31-year-old Barton, "I'm just sharing my knowledge. If that makes me a leader, then that's what I'll do."
In addition to being an Eric Mangini guy, of course.