Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Browns Position Preview #4: Defensive Line and Linebacker

Defensive Line

99 Orpheus Roye DE
2004 (Cleveland)151455252821
Career (9 years)136974252731442114
Coach Romeo Crennel came in and made major changes to the Cleveland defensive line. In came the 3-4 defense, and out went most of the overpaid, underperforming flotsam. Now that the dust has settled - momentarily at least - it appears that returning starter and nine-year NFL veteran Orpheus Roye will be the unofficial captain of this revamped unit.

95 Jason Fisk NT
2004 (San Diego)151301911-1
Career (10 years)15094450254196-19
How do you shore up a relatively young and inexperienced unit without much depth? Sign a proven veteran like Jason Fisk to be the man in the middle. Fisk was a starter for Tennessee and San Diego from 1999-2003. Fisk should already have experience playing in a 3-4 defense, as that's what the Chargers have used over the past few seasons.

97 Alvin McKinley DE
2004 (Cleveland)16260302733
Career (5 years)522133696143
While Orpheus Roye's experience may make him the unofficial defensive line captain, it was Alvin McKinley who had the best 2004 season stats-wise of any returning lineman. Kenard Lang's 73 tackles and 7 sacks may have earned him a move to outside linebacker, but McKinley's 60 tackles and 3 sacks in 2004 are nothing to take lightly.

91 Andrew Hoffman DE
2004 (U of Virginia)1212522329115
Career (U of Virginia)46361678186135
Rookie Andrew Hoffman, the Browns' fifth round draft pick in 2005, broke out in his senior season at Virginia in 2004, recording 11 of his 13 career tackles-for-loss, and all five of his career sacks. This year, the 6-4, 296-pound Hoffman will look to break into Cleveland's rotation at defensive end.

98 Nick Eason NT
2004 (Cleveland)1021100
Career (2 years)0021100
Drafted in the fourth round by Denver in 2003, Nick Eason's career has been disappointing to this point. Of course, he hasn't really had much of a career to this point. After spending all of 2003 on the Broncos' practice squad and the spring of 2004 in NFL Europe, Eason was released at the start of the 2004 NFL season. He was then signed by the Browns, and made his only NFL appearance in week 14 of 2004. This season Eason will look to make the roster of a team that is rather thin at the defensive line.

94 Amon Gordon DE
2004 (Cleveland)60106400
Career (1 year)60106400
A 2004 draft pick of the Browns, Amon Gordon has the size to play defensive end or tackle. After playing in six games in 2004 on the line and on special teams, Gordon will look to increase his playing time in his sophomore season.

92 David McMillan DE/OLB
2004 (Kansas U)11371819137
Career (Kansas U)463715083673015
The Browns picked up a versatile athlete in the fifth round of this year's draft. David McMillan out of Kansas can play defensive end or linebacker. From the looks of it, he is almost as comfortable in coverage - 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups - as he is in the offensive backfield - 15 sacks, 30 tackles-for-loss, and 19 quarterback pressures. If McMillan can have a good training camp, look for him to be a contributor in 2005.

66 Simon Fraser DE
2004 (Ohio State)121228121652.5
Career (Ohio State)518810
The Browns continued their trend of favoring homegrown talent by signing defensive end Simon Fraser as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State. At six and a half feet tall, Fraser will have the ability to knock down a few passes from his defensive end spot.

61 Doug Sims NT
2004 (No team)0000000
Career (4 years)0000000
Doug Sims began his career as an undrafted free agent for Seattle in 2001. After spending 2001 on Washington's practice squad, he found himself in San Diego for training camp 2002. Sims hasn't played much football since then. An ankle injury at that 2002 training camp ended his season. The following year, he was released at the end of training camp, and the year after that (2004), no one wanted him. After almost two years away from the game, the Browns will be giving him a second chance in 2005.

90 Corey Jackson DE
2004 (Cleveland)1010100
Career (2 years)1010100

93 Kevin Carberry DE
2004 stats at Ohio U unavailable
Career (Ohio U)12119.58
Kevin Carberry is semi-homegrown talent. The former Ohio U star was born in Oak Lawn, IL. The four-year starter for the Bobcats brings with him that many years of experience in a 3-4 defense.

69 J'Vonne Parker NT
2004 (Rutgers)11197123.50.5
Career stats at Howard U and Rutgers unavailable
J'Vonne Parker only played 19 football games in college. But, he is yet another all-around athlete that Romeo Crennel seems to favor so much. The 6-4 Parker was also a starting center on his high school basketball team.

73 Ellery Moore DE
2004 (U of Kentucky)11104026147.53.0
Career (U of Kentucky)4318139208.5
Undrafted rookie Ellery Moore played both defensive end, defensive tackle, and nose tackle at the University of Kentucky. While his height (6-1) is unbecoming of a defensive end, his size (300 pounds) makes him good for that position in the 3-4. Why? In the 4-3, linemen line up in a gap between two offensive lineman. In the 3-4, defensive linemen line up directly across from an offensive counterpart, therefore necessitating bigger, stronger defensive linemen in that scheme.


96 Kenard Lang OLB/DE
2004 (Cleveland)1615733231107
Career (8 years)122964853241442042
To the casual observer, Kenard Lang had a breakout year in 2004 with 73 tackles and 7 sacks. However, that performance was just typical Kenard Lang. Throw out the 2000 season, when he was forced into a reserve roll, and Lang has averaged 66 tackles and 5.5 sacks a season. The pass rushing special will move to outside linebacker in the 3-4, but is sure to see time as a down lineman as well.

54 Andra Davis ILB
2004 (Cleveland)111189573200.5
Career (3 years)43272631748725.5
The poster child for Butch Davis' youth movement at linebacker in 2003, Andra Davis responded with 170 tackles and 5 sacks. Last season was an off year for Davis, with "only" 89 tackles. Numbers aside, Andra Davis will surely do whatever his coaching staff needs him to do in this new defensive scheme.

58 Ben Taylor ILB
2004 (Cleveland)32106400
Career (3 years)2310109743140
Who is Ben Taylor? Quite possibly the best linebacker on this team. (OK, that may be a bit of a stretch, but bear with me.) Taylor has shown great promise when he has played, but repeated visits by the injury bug have limited him to only 23 games in his three NFL seasons. If he can stay healthy, Ben Taylor will look to improve upon the 95 tackles he had in 13 games in 2003.

55 Matt Stewart OLB
2004 (Atlanta)1616894445-1.5
Career (4 years)6345300167133-7
Perhaps the quietest of the Browns' offseason acquisitions so far, linebacker Matt Stewart is a proven starter. Even though he has been a starter since 2002, Stewart appears to be more of a "system guy" than a star. That is, he doesn't have high numbers when it comes to sacks or interceptions (in fact, he has zero career interceptions). However, with a young front seven, a guy who goes out there and just does his job - as opposed to a guy who tries to grab the spotlight - may be just what this defense needs.

52 Brant Boyer OLB
2004 (Cleveland)00
Career (11 years)13017372221147713
The wily veteran of this defense, Brant Boyer missed all of 2004 with a foot injury. The year before, he earned more playing time by playing well and recording 80 tackles. On the bench or on the field, Boyer will be the leader that a still-young Cleveland linebacker unit will look up to.

53 Mason Unck ILB
2004 (Cleveland)11054100
Career (2 years)12054100
Somewhat of a fan-favorite in Cleveland, perhaps more for his linebacker-sounding name than his statistical output, Mason Unck has developed into Cleveland's token "fired up special teams guy." After spending time on the practice squad and in NFL Europe, Unck saw playing time in 11 games in 2004. He'll look to increase that playing time in 2005, perhaps even as a member of the regular linebacker rotation.

51 Chaun Thompson ILB
2004 (Cleveland)161380413812.5
Career (2 years)321384443912.5
Still raw talent more than a finished product, Chaun Thompson used last season to show what made him a second-round pick in 2003. If Thompson doesn't make the starting lineup, he'll likely be one of the first guys off the bench at linebacker.

59 Nick Speegle OLB
2004 (U of New Mexico)121292474512.51.5
Career (U of New Mexico)504331738
There never seems to be a shortage of linebackers in the draft, and the Browns used one of their two sixth round picks in 2005 to pick up another one. Nick Speegle has been described as "incredibly tough" and a "quiet playmaker" - just the type of guy you want on a team-oriented defense.

47 Jamal Brooks ILB
2004 (No team)0000000
Career (5 years)1612112900
Jamal Brooks has been around the NFL since 2000, but hasn't seen game action since 2001. After missing 2002 with a broken fibula, Brooks spent 2003 on Dallas' practice squad, and was out of football entirely in 2004. Another player looking for a second chance, Jamal Brooks will be looking to make an impression when training camp opens.

36 Renauld Williams ILB
2004 (Miami)2020200
Career (1 year)2020200
Renauld Williams played defensive end and linebacker at Hofstra, but it looks like his size (6-0, 238 pounds) will limit him to linebacker in the NFL. Between time on the practice squad and injured reserve for Miami in 2004, Williams played two games without any to show in the box score. Of course, with a good training camp, anything can happen for him in 2005.

57 Sherrod Coates OLB
2004 (Cleveland)5011000
Career (2 years)21011000
Now in his third season with the Browns, Sherrod Coates has seen 21 games of NFL playing experience, mostly on special teams. It will be interesting to see whether Coates can find a roster spot this year, or if he will be another victim of a new coach wanting to bring in "his own guys."

56 Justin Kurpeikis OLB
2004 (New England)5000000
Career (4 years)14022000
Justin Kurpeikis has the advantage of having spent two years in Romeo Crennel's system in New England. Kurpeikis signed with Cleveland a week and a half after Romeo Crennel became the new head coach. There must be something he sees in this kid; don't be too surprised if Kurpeikis makes the squad when all is said and done.

49 Eric Mahl ILB
2004 (Kent State)11119646507.52
Career (Kent State)29513719
Another homegrown name shows up at training camp. Kent State alum Eric Mahl is a Monroeville, OH, native, and was a two-time All-MAC selection. Mahl was also selected to play in the 2005 Las Vegas All-American Gridiron Classic senior all-star game.

48 Kevin Harrison ILB
2004 (Eastern Michigan)1111146628494.5
Career (Eastern Michigan)3634320228.5
Kevin Harrison may not be homegrown talent, but the Browns didn't have to go too far to find him. Harrison signed as an undrafted free agent following this year's draft. Another all-around athlete, Harrison was a quarterback/defensive back and third-team all-state basketball player in high school.

74 Omar Nazel OLB
2004 (No team)0000000
Career (1 year)0000000
The former USC standout was signed as an undrafted free agent by Seattle in 2004, but never made it out of training camp. A versatile linebacker, Nazel had 13.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 2 recovered fumbles during his four years with the Trojans.

71 Ivory McCoy OLB/DE
2004 (Detroit)0000000
Career (3 years)0000000
Ivory McCoy has bounced around between a few practice squads during his three-year NFL career, but has yet to see any game action. His 2004 season in NFL Europe was less than impressive, as he collected only 18 tackles in 10 games. McCoy is another versatile athlete, though, as he lined up at tight end, running back, fullback, defensive end, and linebacker while at Michigan State.