Fifteen months after declaring the Browns would switch to a 3-4 defense, Coach Romeo Crennel has the personnel to make the defense work. That was not the case last season when key ingredients were missing.
The Browns had no pass-rushing linebacker threat in 2005. Now they have two with Willie McGinest and rookie Kamerion Wimbley. They also went the old-young route at nose tackle with Ted Washington and rookie Babatunde Oshinowo.
McGinest and Washington have played a combined 28 years in the NFL. Their leadership, as much as their skill, is imperative to making the Browns a winning team. The Browns have finished above .500 only once since returning to the NFL, finishing 9-7 in 2002.
"I'm looking forward to getting on the field and learning from Willie McGinest," Wimbley said. "I know he just came to the Browns as well. He has a lot of knowledge just from playing in the NFL. He knows what it takes just to survive and have a long career. I'm looking forward to learning from him."
Oshinowo had similar remarks about learning from Washington. Physically, they are very different. At 370 pounds, Washington is 60 pounds heavier than the rookie, yet Oshinowo says he can learn technique from Washington, and it probably will not take him long to absorb the information. Oshinowo has a degree in electrical engineering from Stanford.
"Playing with Ted Washington and playing for coach Crennel, it's a great thing," Oshinowo said. "We have played in a 3-4 set for the past two years. I have played in and had a lot of success in the system. That's what I've been the most comfortable with. I would say nose tackle is the one thing that I do well."
The Browns were last in the league with 23 sacks last season and 30th in run defense. The additions of Washington and McGinest in free agency plus Wimbley and Oshinowo in the draft should change those numbers dramatically. Yet despite poor run defense and virtually no pass rush, the Browns allowed only 301 points. Three teams that allowed more were in the playoffs.
Crennel envisions more third-down success with better personnel on defense, which in turn should provide better field position for the offense. The Browns were last in the league with 232 points scored. That is nearly a 200-point differential from the Bengals, who scored 421 points.