Everyone knows Joshua Cribbs' and Jerome Harrison's names after the final four games of the season, all wins, and all done with very little help offensively.
So what do Blake Costanzo, Nick Sorensen, Ray Ventrone, and Alex Hall have in common? Well, nothing really, other than the fact that they were the unsung heroes of the Cleveland Browns in 2009.
Blake Costanzo, a linebacker out of Lafayette, went undrafted in 2006. After playing a year in NFL Europe, he was picked up by the Buffalo Bills for a season and then sent back to the free agent pool. Costanzo was picked up by Cleveland at the beginning of the year, and contributed 14 special teams tackles and added two forced fumbles to his resume.
Nick Sorensen, a defensive back out of Virginia Tech, also went undrafted.He was picked up by the Rams for two seasons, the Jaguars for four, then finally made his way to Cleveland in 2007. As well as adding depth to the safety ranks, Sorensen added 16 stops on special teams last year.
Ray Ventrone, a defensive back out of Villanova, again went undrafted. A former New England Patriot, Ventrone is in his fourth season in the NFL, joining the Browns only the third game into the season. Yet, he still managed to add 15 tackles and play an important role in blocking for return man Josh Cribbs.
Alex Hall, a linebacker from little known St. Augustine, was actually drafted by the Cleveland Browns late in the seventh round in 2008. Last year, Hall showed flashes of greatness, forcing two fumbles and contributing three sacks. Hall however, saw very little playing time this season after he struggled to comprehend Rob Ryan's complex system. Late in the season, Hall started contributing to special teams and added 10 tackles to the resume, prompting Seely to state, "Alex Hall made a lot of progress on special teams, by the end of the season, he really helped us."
Their resumes aren't spectacular, and few people outside of Cleveland die-hards are even aware they are on the team. However, these four men played vital roles in the No. 1 ranked Cleveland Browns' special teams. Yes, Cleveland finally ranked No. 1 in something positive.
Led by special teams coach Brad Seely, a veteran of 22 years, the Browns ranked first in four special teams categories, and finished in the top five in seven others.
How often does a team with the No. 32 ranked offense, and the No. 31 ranked defense, manage to pull together five wins in the NFL? Not very often.
Three wins can directly be attributed to special teams, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, while a strong case can be made for the Oakland and Jacksonville games.
With new Browns' GM Tom Heckert coming in and reorganizing the 2010 roster, will the unsung heroes of the Browns last year be brought back in? Does Heckert realize what a solid foundation that's been laid out for perhaps the best special teams unit of the decade?
Let's hope so.
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