Are Browns suited for 3-4 defense?

February, 19, 2009
2/19/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

As the Phil Savage-Romeo Crennel era was coming to an end, there was a growing train of thought inside and outside the Cleveland Browns' organization that perhaps the team should move from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3.

Browns Depth Chart
If the 2009 season started today, here would be Cleveland's starting defensive lineup:
Position Player NFL Exp.
DE Corey Williams 5
DT Shaun Rogers 8
DE Shaun Smith 5
OLB Alex Hall 1
ILB Leon Williams 3
ILB D'Qwell Jackson 3
OLB Kamerion Wimbley 3
CB Eric Wright 2
CB Brandon McDonald 2
FS Brodney Pool 4
SS Nick Sorensen 8
*Last year's starters OLB Willie McGinest, ILB Andra Davis and S Sean Jones are unrestricted free agents.

Then came the hire of new head coach Eric Mangini and general manager George Kokinis, and all of those thoughts went out the window. The Browns finished No. 26 in total defense last year and have struggled rushing the passer and stopping the run the past four seasons.

But similar to Savage and Crennel, Kokinis and Mangini also believe in a 3-4 defense. Cleveland spent the past four seasons drafting, signing and trading for players the team feels could play the scheme. Some experiments worked out (DT Shaun Rogers) while others (DE Corey Williams) remain a work in progress.

"You're always looking to be able to stop the run, I think that's where defense starts," Mangini said recently. "And then you're not looking to give up big plays, make a team go the long, hard way, work down the field. Those are two key things that come into play and you want the real strength of the 3-4 defense to be its flexibility and your ability to create whatever front you want to create based on moving one or two pieces."

What is clear is the Browns are sticking with the 3-4 for the fifth consecutive season and beyond. Cleveland has free agency and the draft to try to upgrade several needs, including the thin line backing corps.

It will be interesting to see if Mangini can accomplish what his mentor, Crennel, could not in Cleveland.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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