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Sheard: Goal is to 'attack up front'

Posted Sep 4, 2013

Cleveland Browns linebacker Jabaal Sheard is ready for the challenge of competing against Miami’s offensive line.

During the 2012 regular season, the Miami Dolphins surrendered 37 total sacks of their quarterbacks, just over an average of two per game.

The pass protection from the offensive line allowed first-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill to complete 282 passes for 3,294 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Entering the regular-season opener against the Dolphins Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Cleveland Browns’ defensive front seven will compete against an offensive line that averages 5.4 years of NFL service, buoyed by right tackle Tyson Clabo and left guard Richie Incognito, both nine-year veterans.

“They’re pretty solid as an offensive line, but our goal is to attack up front,” Browns outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard said Wednesday. “We’ve got to be that dominant front seven and get after those guys.

“It’s going to be a pretty good match-up. They’ve got a nice front, all across the line. It’s going to be a match-up across the board, not just for me, and everybody’s got to show up.”

Sheard knows a little something about good match-ups.

Having moved from his natural position of defensive end within a 4-3 defense to an edge-rushing outside linebacker in the Browns’ new-look 3-4 scheme, Sheard gets to compete against six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas every day in practice.

“It’s been great, a lot of one-on-one match-ups,” Sheard said. “It’s still pass-rushing, but a lot of one-on-one match-ups. You get the best tackle on the offensive line, so it’s been alright.”

In addition to competing against Thomas, Sheard has sought the advice of veteran outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves, who both played in 3-4 defenses last year, Kruger with the world-champion Baltimore Ravens and Groves for current Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton with the Arizona Cardinals.

“We’ve all been pushing each other to get better, so hopefully, I’m a lot better,” Sheard said. “We’ve all got the same feeling. Every guy in the locker room takes every game seriously. There’s not a guy that I feel I can’t count on in the locker room, that goes out there Sundays and doesn’t want to play. Everybody hates losing.”

That desire to win has driven Sheard to focus in on Miami’s offensive line during film sessions. By studying film of the Dolphins’ offensive front, Sheard has been able to pick up on what makes Tannehill effective at running their system.

“He’s pretty shifty,” Sheard said. “He’s not the fastest, but he is pretty fast. He’s a solid quarterback. He can run. He’s a smart quarterback and he also has a lot of weapons out there in (wide receivers Mike) Wallace and (Brian) Hartline. He’s a lot smarter with the ball in throwing it away and not giving up sacks. His checks are more sufficient, and it’s going to be tough. We’ve got to step up and face the challenge.”