Chris Graythen/Getty Images
One of the few highlights from last season had to be the play of Marcus Benard.
The third-year linebacker from Jackson State led the Browns in sacks with eight and finished the season with 28 tackles. He was slowly becoming one of the Browns' more reliable defensive players.
However, during the offseason, Benard thought that in able to switch from the 3-4 defensive scheme to the 4-3, he should bulk up. He did just that, adding 20-25 extra pounds. Benard weighed in around 256 pounds last year, which would put him around the 275-280 range with the bulk up.
Coach Shurmur was not too pleased with Benard and told him that he needed to slim down because his quickness is what the team coveted. Benard agreed with the coach's suggestion.
“I do see the wisdom,” said Benard.
"I’m a pass rusher, and speed and quickness [are] my attributes. Definitely being lighter always helps, so I can definitely be lighter and I can see myself feeling good.”
While Benard looks to shed some of his newly acquired muscle, recently drafted Jabaal Sheard has been seeing the reps with the Browns first-team; it's been no cake walk as he's been placed against one of the best tackles in the game in Joe Thomas.
Sheard has been lined up against Thomas during every Browns practice and is learning a lot going up against a four-time Pro Bowler.
"I get better every day going up against Joe Thomas," Sheard said.
"It's a lot different from college, a lot more technique. I mean, in college I used to bull rush and put my head down. You can't stick with that. I'm learning it now before I get in a game."
The coaching staff, as well as Thomas, have been impressed with the skill set that Sheard brings with him.
"I think he's got a really good chance to be a good player in this league," Thomas said. "He's really figuring out how to rush over left tackle pretty quickly. I think he's a quick learner."
After Benard gets into playing shape, look for these two to become more competitive and battle for the starting position.
Benard started right where he left off last season, recording one of the Browns' two sacks and finishing with three total tackles against the Packers.