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Defensive leaders emerge for Browns

Posted Sep 13, 2013

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was impressed with the debuts of Desmond Bryant, Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves, and looks to those players for leadership and production.

Cleveland Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant missed much of training camp and the preseason while battling his way through back spasms, but when the games counted toward the standings, he was in the starting lineup and became everything defensive coordinator Ray Horton “hoped for” in a lineman.

Bryant registered team highs with 10 total tackles and two sacks for 12 lost yards during the team’s season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, and anchored a defensive unit that allowed only 20 rushing yards on 23 carries.

“He was dominant up front, and one of the first times I talked to you guys, I talked about depth,” Horton said. “He missed most of training camp. With the depth there and (Ahtyba) Rubin being out, he just stepped in. I know he’s our starter, but he provided tremendous push up front.

“He’s one of our leaders. We’ve got some guys on our team that are leaders, and Desmond is a guy we expect big things from, and he had a fantastic start.”

Much like Bryant, Browns linebacker Paul Kruger made an impact in his first game in Cleveland. He made seven total tackles and had one sack of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

“He’s going to be one of our stalwarts,” Horton said of Kruger. “We need him to play well. He played well last week. He played well on the run. He’s taking on a leadership role now that he’s comfortable being here. He’s one of our important guys. We’ve got to keep him fresh and ready. We all know he’s a very, very good player.”

Linebacker Quentin Groves was the Browns’ third key free-agent acquisition this past offseason, and he also registered a sack against the Dolphins, which came mere days after he was selected as one of the team’s season-long captains.

“I think it’s him,” Horton said. “With most people, and I’ve told our players, there’s a country song by Bonnie Raitt called, ‘Nick of Time.’ When there’s less of something, it becomes more precious to you. By him being out of football, it became very important and very precious to him. I try to tell all of our players, there’s a very small window for them. The average is something like 3.2 years in the league, and as you start to get a little bit older, I think guys start reflecting back on their careers and say, ‘I’m on the downside of a four-year career.’ If you’re lucky and get 10 in, as soon as you hit your prime at five, you’re on the downhill side.

“This is a new team for him, but this is a young team, and I think he came in and demonstrated some leadership ability that you guys probably can’t see outside of the field, in the classroom, in the locker room, where he’s helping guys understand how to be a pro, how to study and how to work. It was expected after watching the role he’s taken with the team.”

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