A Closer Look at the Cleveland Browns' Candidates for the Defensive Line
The weakest part of the Cleveland Browns roster heading into training camp is probably the defensive line.
The Browns made significant upgrades to the defensive secondary and the offense, aside from wide receiver, during the offseason. The linebackers are overflowing with candidates, and the offensive line has been addressed.
Age and depth are the biggest enemies facing the line as we head into 2010. The likely starting lineup, barring suspension, is Shaun Rogers at defensive end, Ahtyba Rubin at nose tackle, and Robaire Smith at the other end.
Rogers will be 31 this season, Smith 33, and Rubin a relative baby at 24. Their projected backups at this point are 31-year-old Kenyon Coleman, who is coming off a disappointing season, 26-year-old C.J. Mosley, who only had 18 tackles in 2009, and promising sophomore Brian Schaefering, who can play either tackle or end.
Cleveland drafted Clifton "Monster" Geathers in the sixth round of the NFL draft but is not counting on him to produce this year.
Aside from these holdovers, the only players the Browns have acquired to vie for time on the line are primarily castoffs from other teams and rookie free agents.
The following players are a mixture of undrafted rookies and veteran practice squad hopefuls. If one or two of them turn out to be this year's Brian Schaefering, then the Browns will probably be satisfied.
Titus Adams is a 6'4", 305-pound defensive tackle who was originally drafted in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL draft by the New York Jets. He spent time on the New York Giants' 53-man roster in 2006 and was on the practice squads of the San Diego Chargers in 2007 and the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008.
The New England Patriots signed him to their practice squad in 2009 and promoted him to the 53-man roster in December, where he played nose tackle and recorded his first two tackles. He was waived on Dec. 31 and claimed by the Browns.
Adams has good balance, quickness, and burst. He is a sure tackler and uses his hands well to get off blocks. There is some question as to whether he is a one gap or a two gap tackle.
Kwaku Danso is a 28-year-old rookie from East Carolina who played only three games in college. He is a 6'5", 336-lb., zero technique nose tackle who hails from Ghana. Despite his inexperience and age, he caught defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's eye at his pro day when he ripped off 39 bench press reps of 225 pounds.
Keith Grennan was originally signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and is a 6'4", 300-lb. defensive end. The Browns signed Grennan to the practice squad prior to the start of the 2009 season, so he has experience in the team's system.
Jonathan Lewis played defensive tackle for Virginia Tech and was a 2006 sixth round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals, where he played one season. He spent time on the practice squads of Oakland, Seattle, Detroit, and Jacksonville over the next three years before being signed by Cleveland.
Lewis, who is 6'0" and 304 pounds, has four career tackles. Lewis is reasonably well-rounded and runs a 4.9 40-yard dash. He has a quick first step and a good motor, but his career has not matched up to his potential so far.
Swanson Miller is an undrafted rookie free agent defensive lineman from Oklahoma State who is 6'4" and 300 pounds. He has a quick first step, a decent swim move, and a good motor.
Miller only did 22 reps at the combine and could definitely spend some quality time in the weight room. He is a good athlete for his size but gets overwhelmed by stronger opponents.
Derreck Robinson is a 6'4", 290-lb. defensive end who broke into the league with the San Diego Chargers in 2005 as an undrafted free agent from Iowa. From 2005-2007, he was on the 53-man roster of either the Chargers or the Miami Dolphins.
He has 21 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and three pass deflections in his career. Robinson is a decent technician and has good athleticism but is slow of foot and is not a great tackler.
Brian Sanford is a rookie defensive tackle from Temple University. Sanford is 6'2", 280 pounds and had 86 tackles, eight sacks, three forced fumbles, and one blocked field goal in his career. Sanford lettered in three sports in high school, also participating in wrestling and track.
Martin Tevaseu played the defensive line for two years at UNLV. He had 48 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks in his career. The 6'1", 310-lb. rookie lineman suffered a leg injury that cost him the entire 2006 season.
Tevaseu is a defensive tackle who can play the nose. He is a smart player who is strong and has a powerful bull rush. The former Running Rebel has a thick trunk but needs to learn to play with technique and leverage.
It will be interesting to see what coach Eric Mangini and Defensive Coordinator Ryan do with Danso this year. He is a unique player who fills a definite need in the Browns' 3-4, so he will likely be on the practice squad.
Hopefully, the coaches will be able to unearth a gem or two out of this collection of players, but more than likely there will be additions to the roster as other teams pare down their rosters during training camp.
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