Over the first seven weeks of the offseason, the Cleveland Browns have installed new schemes on offense and defense under the direction of coach Rob Chudzinski, as well as his respective coordinators, Norv Turner (offensive) and Ray Horton (defensive).
Through the classroom meetings and on-field work during phases one and two of the offseason, as well as the start of organized team activities this week, the players have embraced the changes in their respective schemes.
“It’s been a pretty smooth road so far,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “Guys are excited. They’re competing, and that’s what you want to get out of this time of year. We’ve got a lot of game-planning, a lot of scheming going in. Probably 99 percent of our scheme on both sides is in. It’s just a matter of repetition, getting guys to run fast, moving around, making calls. So far, it’s been pretty good.”
On defense, Jackson is switching back to a 3-4 front, something he played in during his first five seasons with the Browns. It was during that time that Jackson posted 468 of his 745 career tackles, three sacks, four interceptions and one fumble recovery.
During the 2008 regular season, Jackson registered a league-leading 188 total tackles, including 112 solo stops, two sacks and three interceptions.
“Right now, it’s just getting the framework and building a base,” Jackson said. “That’s running to the ball on defense, that’s doing the small things, the fundamental things on the other side of the ball and special teams-wise. We don’t have any pads on, so it’s a lot of running to the ball and fine-tuning some fundamental things.”
Jackson said learning this defense reminded him of his rookie season, but that he would continue to be a veteran presence in the locker room and a mentor to the younger players, including linebacker
“The things that I can help them with are how to prepare, how to stay in your playbook every day because when you get to that field, bullets are flying,” Jackson said. “You’re tired; you’re hot. A lot of different variables happen. What I can give them from a veteran standpoint is stay in your book as much as you can, ask many questions. It’ll all translate over to the field, but right now, guys are competing. I like what I’m seeing so far.
“Mingo has done a phenomenal job so far. It’s a different world from d-end, where he played at LSU, to now. He’s an outside linebacker. He has to know coverages. He has to know when he’s blitzing, when he’s not blitzing. There’s a lot of different variables that he has to learn on the fly.”
Despite the lack of an offseason in 2012 because he was a supplemental draft pick in mid-July, Gordon caught 50 passes and led the team with 805 yards receiving and five touchdown catches last season.
Like Jackson learning the defense, Gordon said the Browns’ offensive players are ironing out the details and “learning how to practice and train in the offseason.”
“We get opportunities going downfield,” Gordon said of the offense. “With all the passes, you really can’t pinpoint which receiver’s going to get it this time, and who’s the go-to because at any given moment, any play, anybody can really be the go-to guy. It’s hard for defenses to scheme against, and that’s what I really love.”