Cleveland Browns: 4-3 Defense, the Roster and the 2011 NFL Draft
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"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts."
~Arnold Bennett, English novelist
With the departures of Eric Mangini and Rob Ryan, the Browns will fall fully into line with the Mike Holmgren philosophy. They have already hired Pat Shurmur as head coach. Shurmur, an Andy Reid disciple, plans to implement a West Coast style offense.
The next hire will almost certainly be a defensive coordinator to run a 4-3 defense, the system Holmgren employed while a head coach. The early rumors are the Browns intend to hire Dick Jauron.
With the shift in defensive philosophy, change is certainly going to affect the roster. Several of the players are ill-suited to a 4-3 defense that requires more athletic linemen and linebackers with different skill sets.
Luckily, the secondary should remain mostly intact.
Here's a quick look at what the defensive starting lineup could look like next year:
DE: Matt Roth, Marcus Benard
Neither player has any experience playing in a 4-3 in the NFL. Also, this position will need to be upgraded to generate more of a pass rush.
Prediction: Matt Roth starts at RDE and they find a replacement for the left side.
DT: Shaun Rogers, Ahtyba Rubin
Rogers has experience in a 4-3 and if healthy, should thrive. Rubin doesn't necessarily fit the scheme but may work if he can adjust. They will need to get a quicker, more athletic player in the middle of the defense.
MLB: D'qwell Jackson
Most 4-3 MLBs are larger, run stuffing linebackers. While Jackson has a penchant for piling up tackles, I wouldn't say he is a force in the run game.
OLB: Scott Fujita, Chris Gocong
Both players should be at least adequate at OLB, having played the position with their previous teams.
Which player are the Browns most likely to draft if AJ Green is off the board?
One of the main issues the Browns are going to have to address is depth. Heckert specifically mentioned the fact that they are going to deal with age issues on the roster. Expect Barton and Bowens to be cut. Expect Kenyon Coleman and Robaire Smith to move on as well.
The Browns are going to have many areas to address on the defensive side of the football. While I still believe that WR is the top area of need for the team, if A.J. Green isn't available when the Browns pick, expect them to draft a defensive player they believe can make an impact in the front seven. Here's a look at a few other top prospects that might be on the radar:
Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
He probably won't be around, but he's the most talented interior lineman in the draft.
Da'Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
Pure pass rusher with the ideal size to be a 4-3 rush end.
Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina
Had issues with the NCAA this year, but should still be a top pick based on talent.
Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue
Kerrigan led all college football with 26 tackles for loss.
The one thing that is certain as a Browns fan is change, and we can expect plenty of it over the next several months...again.
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