Monday, July 25, 2005

Browns Position Preview #5: Defensive Back and Special Teams

Defensive Back

33 Daylon McCutcheon
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)121055505210
Career (6 years)8780375303721045
If you've read any press on Daylon McCutcheon recently, you know this bit of trivia: McCutcheon and Phil Dawson are the only two members of the 1999 "re-inaugural" season still with the Browns. That doesn't necessarily mean he's that good (as Anthony Henry, who left to free agency) or too bad (Tim Couch and countless others). It does mean he's loyal, though. The Browns have been loyal to him as well. Through coaching changes and countless personnel upgrades and downgrades, McCutcheon has remained a starter in Cleveland's defensive backfield. This season marks his seventh straight year in that role.

27 Brian Russell FS
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Minnesota)1616111743718
Career (3 years)4834222168541118
How's this for a story to inspire young defensive backs. Brian Russell signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2001, but did not see any playing time that year. In 2002, he worked his way onto the team and appeared in all 16 games. Given a chance to start in 2003, he broke out, recording 95 tackles and 9 interceptions. In contrast, the 1 interception he had in 2004 caused critics to call him washed up, despite the 111 tackles. Brian Russell still has something left in him. Also in him, coach Romeo Crennel has a shining example of a guy who's had to work for everything he's received.

26 Sean Jones SS
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)0000000
Career (1 year)0000000
After trading an arm and a leg (and his second round pick) for the rights to draft Kellen Winslow in the first round of the 2004, Butch Davis turned around and traded his other arm and leg for a second round pick that year. That second round pick, by luck, was safety Sean Jones, who never made it out of August before being placed in the Injured Reserve. The Georgia standout is back this year, though, and with the release of Robert Griffith and Earl Little, Jones will be out to prove that he has the talent to be the Browns' starting strong safety.

24 Gary Baxter CB/S
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Baltimore)161686788114
Career (4 years)544628224141551
When shopping for free agents defensive backs, why not take from one of the best defenses in the league? Gary Baxter was a starter for Baltimore for the past three years, averaging 94 tackles a season. Another versatile athlete, Baxter played both cornerback and safety for the Ravens.

30 Antonio Perkins CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Oklahoma U)1133221111
Career (Oklahoma U)473012592331121
There are two ways to build talent at a position: through free agency, and through the draft. Brian Russell and Gary Baxter are examples of building talent through free agency. Antonio Perkins is just one of several examples of building talent through the draft. What once was a shallow, unproven, injury-laden defensive backfield is now deep with proven ability and young, raw talent. Perkins, Cleveland's fourth round pick in 2005, will look to step right into the nickel back role this year. The speedster (4.31 second 40-yard dash) will also be used as a return specialist. In four years at Oklahoma, Antonio Perkins returned eight punts to the end zone, a school record.

39 Michael Lehan CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)1021512301
Career (2 years)2243630603
Michael Lehan has spent most of his career as a backup and special teamer. That's mainly a testament to his ability as - you guessed it - an all-around athlete. Lehan was a running back, returner, and track star while in high school in Minnesota.

21 Brodney Pool FS
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Oklahoma U)1395652729
Career (Oklahoma U)3917111358915
Why take a safety in the second round of this year's draft when you already have two? As in the first round, General Manager Phil Savage went with a "best player available" strategy. Brodney Pool entered the NFL draft after his junior season at Oklahoma. Had he stayed there another year, some experts predict that he would have become a top-10 overall pick. Savage obviously found that talent too good to pass up. This year, Pool will back up Brian Russell as he adjusts to the NFL game. But, who knows? By next year, he may be ready to run onto the field as a member of the starting eleven.

25 Chris Crocker S/CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)12561441615
Career (2 years)28689701817
Originally a cornerback, Chris Crocker proved he was too good to keep out of the starting lineup. As soon as Earl Little slipped, Butch Davis siezed the opportunity to move Crocker into the starting lineup as a safety. Crocker responded with 64 tackles, his first career interception, and his first two career sacks. With a new pool of talent in Cleveland's secondary, Chris Crocker will once again start this year on the bench. But, if his past performance means anything, he will have worked his way onto the playing field in no time.

28 Leigh Bodden CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)8198100
Career (2 years)2122118313
Leigh Bodden has been used occasionally as a nickel back in his last two seasons with Cleveland. With the talent he's looking up at on the depth chart this year, Bodden can be thankful that he's also a special teams ace. The former Duquesne long jumper lead the Browns in 2004 with 18 special teams tackles.

22 Michael Jameson SS
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)1601512300
Career (4 years)4212823511
Primarily a special teamer, Michael Jameson has also seen time at safety on nickel sets. The high school basketball and track star played in 31 of 32 games for the Browns from 2003-2004, showing how valuable he was to Butch Davis' coaching staff. This year, Michael Jameson will try to prove that he can be just as valuable to Romeo Crennel's coaching staff.

35 Dyshod Carter CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (ArizonaCleveland)1101411302
Career (4 years)1601613302
Dyshod Carter is in his second tour of duty with the Browns. After ending the 2001 season with the Browns, Carter spent time in NFL Europe and on New England's practice squad. Carter started 2004 with the Cardinals. Following his release, he played five games for the Browns at cornerback and on special teams.

29 Michael Grant CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Cleveland)0000000
Career (1 year)0000000
Michael Grant signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2004, but was placed on the Injured Reserve at the end of training camp. After spending time at Grambling and Georgia Southern, Grant finished his college career at Division II Mars Hill College in North Carolina. There, he played cornerback and occasionally returned punts. There's more to Michael Grant than football, too. Grant is active in his home church. A licensed minister, he established a youth group at the River of Life Church, complete with a recreational lounge for teens in that youth group.

43 James King S/CB
GGSTacklesSoloAsstINTBreak Ups
2004 (Central Michigan)1079483104
Career (Central Michigan)45408
An all-around athlete, and somewhat a homegrown talent, James King went to Central Michigan after playing football, basketball, and track in high school. While a Chippewa, King put up some impressive numbers. For his career, he had 408 tackles and 10 blocked kicks. Of those 10 blocked kicks, 8 came in 2001, and 4 of those were blocked punts in a single game against Michigan State. "Impressive" doesn't begin to describe a feat like that.

Special Teams

4 Phil Dawson K
2004 (Cleveland)1624/2982.85028/28100100
Career (7 years)92108/13281.852151/15597.4475
Phil Dawson has been the Browns' kicker for the past six years, and things aren't going to change any time soon. Dawson set a franchise record with 27 straight field goals made between October of 2003 and November of 2004. However, once he missed one, his concentration was lost. After starting the year 22-for-22, Dawson ended it 2-for-7. Nonetheless, he tied a career high with 100 points. A proven veteran, Phil Dawson should have his confidence back in 2005, and once again he will be a dependable NFL placekicker.

2 Tyler Jones K
2004 (Boise State)24-2788.94869/7098.6141
Career (Boise State)46156249
When the Browns were looking for an insurance policy for Phil Dawson, they checked the Bears' waiver wire. It was then that they signed the recently released Nick Setta of Notre Dame. Setta, however, showed in NFL Europe that his leg was not made for kicking off from the 30 yard line. So, the Browns checked the Bears' waiver wire a few weeks later and found Tyler Jones. The Browns then released Setta and signed Jones, the undrafted rookie out of Boise State. Jones did have 36 touchbacks as a senior for the Broncos, but his longest field goal was "only" 48 yards. There is an outside chance that Jones can make the team as a kickoff specialist to rest Phil Dawson's leg, but that will all depend on how the other roster spots are filled.

10 Kyle Richardson P
GPuntsYdsAvgLongTBInside 20
2004 (Cincinnati)0000.0000
Career (8 years)9649420,30841.16749160
A veteran of the AFC North - and several other teams for that matter - Kyle Richardson missed the 2004 season after injuring a bicep while trying to make a tackle in a preseason game. (We know he's tough, at least.) After averaging 42 yards per punt or more from 1997-1999, Richardson has struggled to keep a season average above 40. However, he does consistently put balls inside the 20. He still can boom the occasional punt as well, with end-of-year longs that average 60 yards.

3 Derrick Frost P
GPuntsYdsAvgLongTBInside 20
2004 (Cleveland)168531640.054424
Career (2 years)168531640.054424
I'll paraphrase something I read about Derrick Frost in the newspaper the other day: a young, inexperienced punter can be excused for one seven-yard punt (as he had against Baltimore in a key situation last November). The problem was that Frost never seemed to recover psychologically from that. Perhaps the blame lies with Butch Davis, who refused to resign veteran Chris Gardocki, often team MVP during Cleveland's recent "lean years"; instead going with a punter who had never seen NFL action before, just to save a little cap space. After the end of last season, Derrick Frost will basically need a miracle summer to beat out Kyle Richardson and make the team.

64 Ryan Pontbriand LS
2004 (Cleveland)16110
Career (2 years)32633
Drafting a long snapper out of Rice in the fifth round can make you look like a genius or an idiot. Following the 2002 season, everyone was talking about long snappers, especially after a botched field goal snap cost the New York Giants their season. You don't know how important they are until you have a bad one, was the gist of what everyone was saying. The Giants signed the Browns' long snapper as a free agent that year, so the Browns took long snapper Brian Pontbriand in the third round of the 2003 draft. On a championship caliber team, where attention to details is of the utmost importance, that is a genius move (similarly, the Patriots used their first round pick in 2005 on a no-named guard from Fresno State, as they needed someone to replace Joe Andruzzi). However, on a team with as many holes as the 2002/2003 Browns had, that move made Butch Davis once again look like he didn't have the mental capacity to be anywhere near an NFL draft. With all that said, Ryan Pontbriand has been a solid player in his two years with the Browns.