Imposing Bowens Looking To Lead By Example

New Browns LB talks about his role on the defense, and the respect he has for his head coach.

Stand next to Cleveland Browns linebacker David Bowens for about 10 seconds, and you're immediately taken aback by one specific thing.

That is, how big the guy is.

Even in this day and age when there's accelerated growth among NFL players, Bowens stands out -- literally and figuratively -- for a linebacker.

He is Willie McGinest and Jamir Miller kind of big, in fact. McGinest, who played linebacker for the Browns the last three years before not being re-signed in the offseason, was listed at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds. Miller, who played in Cleveland from 1999 through the 2002 preseason opener, when a torn Achilles tendon ended his career, was 6-6 and 265.

At 6-3, Bowens isn't quite as tall as either Miller or McGinest, but at 265 pounds, he has their bulk. He is -- far and away -- the biggest linebacker on the Browns roster right now.

Get this: He is nearly 40 -- yes, 40 -- pounds bigger than rookie linebacker Kaluka Maiava, who is listed at 229. It's not often that you see that kind of size disparity between two players at any position area other than the offensive and defensive lines, where the sky's the limit for packing on the bulk.

New Browns head coach Eric Mangini has made no secret of the fact he likes his players big so they have less chance of being overpowered at the point of attack. For that reason alone, it's easy to see why the club signed Bowens as an unrestricted free agent 11 weeks ago.

When Mangini was hired by the Browns, he knew he needed to bring in some solid, established veterans who are well-versed in the type of 3-4 defense he's installing in Cleveland. Enter Bowens, who will turn 32 years old in a month and is in his 10th NFL season. The last two of those years were spent as a member of the New York Jets, where Mangini was the head coach. In 2008, he had five starts, his most since 2004, when he had 15 starts for the Miami Dolphins.

Add it all together, and Bowens, who spent six years with the Dolphins and one each with the Denver Broncos and Green Bay packers before going to New York, was destined to become a member of Mangini's first Browns team. He is a perfect fit here.

Most importantly for the Browns, Bowens understands all that. He understands he is as much of a teacher on this team as he is a player.

"I lead by example," he said following Tuesday's OTA practice. "If that's leadership, then I'm a leader."

And a big fan of Mangini.

"He's so cerebral," Bowens said. "That's why I came here. He'll come up with some kind of special scheme for an opponent one week, then the following week, he'll come up with something totally different."

He said Mangini and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will form a good coaching team on that side of the ball.

"Some of the problems we had in New York was communication, making sure everybody knew where they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to be doing on a given play," Bowens said. "That's so important. It's so much about what defense is about. Rob has gotten all of us on the same page."

Bowens isn't starting in these spring practices thus far, but even if that continues into the regular season, which well could be the case, he no doubt will have an integral role in the defense. The Browns have really struggled in this expansion era to get pressure on the quarterback. That was especially true last season, when they had just 17 sacks, 11 fewer than 2007 and '06 and their smallest total since sacks began being counted way back in 1963, 45 years earlier.

Even in the strike-shortened season of 1982, when only nine games were played, the Browns had more sacks (22) than they did last year.

That's where Bowens comes in -- again. His role is that of a situational pass rusher. He had four sacks last year, just .5 less nose tackle Shaun Rogers, who led the Browns with 4.5. He recorded five in 2006, six in '05 and seven in '04.

Anything approaching those numbers in 2009 would really help the Browns. It would be the big man providing a big boost in an area where the defense, if not the team overall, might have its biggest need.

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