BEREA, Ohio -- One of the biggest takeaways from how coach Mike Pettine -- and by extension GM Ray Farmer -- want to build their roster came in how many defensive backs the Cleveland Browns kept on the roster. The magic number was 12: seven cornerbacks and five safeties.
That’s a big number, indeed, and clearly the combination of Pettine-Farmer believes that the best way to rush the passer is to have receivers covered so the pass rush has time to reach the quarterback. It is a viable philosophy, and one Pettine has taught both in stops as the defensive coordinator for Buffalo and the New York Jets.
Asked on Monday why he kept so many defensive backs on his initial 53-man roster, Pettine said it was a combination of the best players being at a position of need.
“Well it’s probably a little bit of both,” Pettine said. “We felt that these guys are talented NFL corners that were worthy of being on the roster. The number is towards the high end, but once you get above your minimum requirements at each position, you look to keep the best players in general. You never want to keep a guy for the sake of filling out a quota, as long as you’ve met the position minimum that you can function on game day.”
Asked why the position is so important, Pettine said given the nature of spread offenses in the NFL, he believes the more versatile defensive backs you have who can match up and cover, either along the perimeter or in the middle of the field, the better.
“I think the whole trend in the league -- the spread offense -- is to match up and single guys up, and that’s a big part of what we do,” Pettine said. “We’ll play a lot of split safety, Cover 2, where corners are really essentially almost playing an outside linebacker-type position, with deep responsibility. We need guys that can match up and can run. That’s why we were fortunate that we found as many as we did and we were able to keep them.”