Crennel Addresses Defensive Questions

Defensively, heading into free agency, the team needed to get some help up front.

Phoenix, AZ. --

They were able to do that by signing DLs Robaire Smith and Shaun Smith.

I asked the coach what Robaire Smith brings to the table.

"He fills a need for one because we didn't have that position (filled) on the team because of the free agency thing. He's a big, physical player who is familiar with the system,. He's worked with (defensive coordinator) Todd (Grantham) before. And I think in our scheme of defense, he'll fit in with your scheme of defense and will give us somebody on the right side who will be handle the run and who will be able to give us some pocket push."

As for Shaun Smith, Crennel was asked if he had any experience playing NT in a 3-4 scheme.

"Not 3-4 the way we play it, but he lines up on the nose in the offset position most of the time, and he has some experienc ein watching the technique. We talked to him about it, he understands it and feels like he can play it.

One of the players that fans should keep an eye on his OLB Antwan Peek who many around the NFL felt could be a real sleeper free agent signing for a team that uses a 3-4 scheme. I asked the head coach how he would fit in this season.

"I think initially what we see is Antwan coming into a rotation at the OLB spot. For (Willie) McGinest initially, but (Kamerion) Wimbley played every down for us last year and sometimes you need to give a guy a break. If you can give him one series a half, now he'll be fresher for the whole game. With Antwan we think he might provide the stoutness and some pass rush for an effective guy to rotate around the two (starters)."

Another player that subscribers have been asking about of late is second-year ILB Leon Williams. I asked Crennel how he's progressing.

"I think Leon can get to the point where he can get into the rotation at the ILB spot. He can back up Andra (Davis) and play behind Andra. Andra has shown he has the versatility to play strong side and weak side, mike or will as we call them. Andra can play both of those. Having Leon be able to step in and play that some gives us the versatility to have three guys play those two spots. It always helps to have that kind of depth."

As noted at the NFL combine, Crennel told me at the combine that he had no plans to move Williams outside despite his size.

As for ILB D'Qwell Jackson?

"D'Qwell did a surprisingly good job for a rookie going inside and playing inside. The thing that showed up about him when you watched his college tape was his instincts. I think that was the thing that showed up at this level also. His instincts, nose for the ball, allowed him to be a pretty decent player for us."

In the secondary, the team has a clear opening at the other cornerback position opposite Leigh Bodden. Crennel was asked about who will line up as the other starter.

"We probably still need to try to help that position a little bit. Leigh Bodden, he should be able to come back and we feel decent about him. We have to get to the point where we can get
somebody opposite him that we feel as good about."

Despite some depth issues, Cleveland is clearly in better shape defensively than they were a year ago.

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