BEREA, Ohio--It's been well documented the Browns focus on trying to build a dominant front seven, defensively.
Much of the defenses success will be predicated on getting pressure on the quarterback and the aggressive, attack style of defense brought here by defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Horton was asked to describe his emotions going into the season opener.
"Anxious. Nervous, Excited. All those rolled into one," Horton said. "I think the players are too. It's the time of year when your body starts telling you it's fall, it's football season and time to kick it off for real."
Horton is excited to unveil his defense this week.
"I am excited to put our product out there for our fans," Horton said. "I'm been very excited about the fan support in the community."
Horton said it's no secret what the Browns want to do.
"What we're trying to establish on defense is don't run the ball on us and we will turn the ball back over to the offense," Horton said.
The Browns top two signings in free agency were in the front seven with outside linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive end Desmond Bryant. They also used the sixth-pick overall, to take outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo. The Browns holdovers from last year's team are former No. 1 and No. 2 draft picks Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard. Mingo has been sidelined with a bruised lung and Bryant with back spasms. Both players have been limited in practice this week and are questionable for this week's game with the Dolphins.
"Our defense will make no excuses," Horton said. "We will go out there and play the best ball that we can."
Horton described Kruger as a player on a mission to prove that last year's postseason run was not a fluke for him.
"I think one of the things you can't measure is his competitive fire," Horton said. "He's very competitive and he desires to be the best. I think he's on a mission and feels he has a lot to prove. He had six sacks in the playoffs and he has the physical talent, but he has the heart, desire and will to be one of the best."
The Browns are expected to get after the quarterback starting Sunday, but Horton said it's not all about getting sacks.
"I can't control if the quarterback throws the ball after three steps, five steps or seven steps," Horton said. "That's not my decision, but what I can control is to hopefully, apply enough pressure where those are big plays where we get off (the field) on third down even without a sack and turning the ball over to our offense. There's a lot of hidden yardage in games, a lot of hidden statistics in games and things that affect a play where it's just a hurried throw where it's an incomplete pass on third down."
Horton was asked if the cornerback position opposite of Joe Haden has been frustrating to him.
"It's always been settled for me since the first day," Horton said. "It's just a matter of who takes the first snap after the opening kickoff. Right now, we believe we have three starting corners in Haden, Skrine and Christopher Owens. They have gone out there and competed and have competed in the preseason. Chris is ready to get his first extended action in a while and I am really happy with the status of our corners."
Joe Haden said he's confident in Skrine and Owens and is glad Owens has recovered from his foot injury.
"Buster's proven himself again and again after challenges," Haden said. "He's improving doing better knowing his job.
"C.O., he's a talented player," Haden said. "He's been in the league for a while now, so I'm not really worried about what he can do on the field. It's just about him staying healthy."
Horton said that the cornerbacks will play inside and outside and move around throughout the game.
"We'll roll all of them (around)," he said. "It just depends on how (the Dolphins) line up. We don't know how Coach (Offensive coordinator Mike) Sherman decides to put his troops out there. We'll just go out there with their guys and if they're inside, Buster will be inside, if they're outside, Buster will be outside, Joe will be inside. It just depends on how they employ their troops.
"We just go play football," Horton said. "We're really a reflection of what they do. I don't know what they'll come out in, I wish I did, but Coach Sherman didn't call me this weekend. Maybe, he'll call me, but we'll just react to what we see and try to put the best 11 and whatever that matchup is, whether it be inside or outside, I don't know how they'll line up."
Horton was asked if he thought the Browns could have one of the best defenses in the NFL.
"We will be as good as we can be, meaning I'm going to challenge them to be as good as they can be," he said. "How good is that? Yes, but that is all predicated by the team concept when we go on the field. Is it after a turnover? Is it after a touchdown? Is it after a long return? So it all works together. Can they be? Yes. Are we striving to be? Absolutely."
Busy Benjamin: WR Travis Benjamin will be a co-starter will WR Davone Bess against the Dolphins as WR Josh Gordon begins his two-game suspension. In addition, to handling the punt return duties, Benjamin said he expects to also be the kick returner, in certain situations.
"I'm in great shape, knowing that I can do return kickoff, return offense, I'm just ready to go out and play," he said. "It's not a lot. I've done it plenty of times before in college."
The Browns have DB Johnson Bademosi listed on the depth chart as the first kickoff return man, but Benjamin was asked if he would return kickoffs he said "Yes."
When asked if he was the first team kick returner, he explained.
"It's really not a first team," he said. "It's kind of a scheme thing in knowing what kind of scheme they're in and we just rotate in."
Injury Update: OL Shawn Lauvao (ankle) was the only player not on the practice field. He has been ruled out for this week's game. DL Desmond Bryant (back) and OLB Barkevious Mingo (lung) were limited in practice. It is unclear if either will play against the Dolphins. Bryant is most likely the closest to playing. When asked how he was before practice in the locker room, he said "I feel good."
Horton was asked if he would be disappointed if Mingo cannot play.
"I'm not disappointed, at all," Horton said. "Whomever is on the field plays for us, and I'm disappointed for (Mingo), but for me I can only concern myself with the guys that are available to play. He will come back and he will be able to play when his body tells him to. Would I like to have him out there, 'Yes'. Am I disappointed 'No' because I believe we have capable players that will step up."
Chudzinski wasn't available for comment on Thursday.