Before he became the outside linebackers coach for the Cleveland Browns, Brian Baker knew there was talent within the team’s locker room.
Baker gained that knowledge by coaching against the Browns in two of the last three years. During his time as the defensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers (2009-10) and Dallas Cowboys (2011-12), Baker developed an appreciation for the Browns’ athletes.
“This is a good football team,” Baker said. “We’ve experienced that ourselves, having played last year and were fortunate enough to beat this team in overtime. You look at the game, and the Browns should’ve beaten us last year.
“Having an opportunity to come here, I felt good about the defensive guys and knowing what they are. I think the front guys really run. The linebackers find the ball and they sort and hit and do those kinds of things. I like the personnel here, and I think, if you’ve got players that like to hunt the ball, a 4-3, 3-4, whatever else it is, that’s a great building block.”
During his introductory press conference, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said he wanted to have two foundational building blocks in his players, “big men that can run and little men that can hit.”
Baker said of Horton’s mentality, “That’s football.”
“The more effective you are on defense in terms of putting pressure on the ball, whether it’s the ball-carrier or the quarterback, the more effective you’re going to be defensively,” Baker said. “If you can have big guys that can move, because it is a space game, it is a movement game, and then, little guys that can hit, guys that can stop the ball from advancing, that’s important. Outside linebackers typically have a little bit of both. They’re guys that have size, but they have a tremendous amount of movement ability, explosiveness and can hit.”
Under Horton, the Browns will be running a base 3-4 defense, but will utilize multiple fronts. Scheming those different fronts means the players must be versatile.
“It’s a multi-front defense, so really, his role is multiple,” Baker said of the outside linebackers. “He’s a guy that’s going to be able to play at the line of scrimmage, over tight ends, play in space, maybe walk out on the slot depending on his coverage responsibilities. He also should have the ability to come off the edge and rush the passer.
“In a 3-4 defense, those guys are usually the guys that get a lot of your sacks because the guys inside a lot of the times are using up all of the blockers. It’s a little harder to work their moves when you have those 300-pounders in front of you, so our edge guys are going to be really important to applying pressure to the quarterback.”
With the switch to a 3-4, Baker will get an opportunity to work with former defensive end
“When the ball is snapped, he no longer has his hand in the dirt,” Baker said of players making the switch from end to linebacker. “Really, that’s the only part of the process that you’re eliminating. They’re used to seeing that ball with their hand down and being at knee level as opposed to shoulder level. For some guys, that does make a difference.
“That’s part of the process that we’ve got to figure out, how quickly we can get those guys to understand that the ball is moved in your mind. You’re in a two-point stance, but you still have to play with your pads down, shoulders down. You have to do the same things mechanically when it comes to pass-rushing.”