There was an understanding the Browns would be young on defense going into the season, and the snap count sheet told the story in the season opener.
Two rookies, defensive lineman Carl Nassib and linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah, were starters who combined for 110 snaps. Linebacker Joe Schobert, listed first on the depth chart at outside linebacker, logged 29 snaps. Safety Derrick Kindred was on the field for 23. And that's on top of the combined 200-plus snaps played by second-year players.
"I don't want to sound like a broken record as I sit here – but we know we are young and everything is a new experience for these guys," Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. "We have to get them where, once they learn it, once they have experienced it…where it is not new and it is not 'Oh wow coach, I did not know that.'"
As he assessed that group Friday during his weekly press conference, Horton doled out measured praise to the four rookies. With Nassib, who was elevated to a starting role with the release of Monday's depth chart, Horton said he'd earned the right to be "showcased" more in the near future. For Ogbah and Schobert, the game was "not too big" and they had minimal mental errors. Kindred, who had a nice form tackle on veteran Darren Sproles and helped create the havoc that led to a Christian Kirksey sack, was "OK" for his first game and will continue to get more snaps because Horton likes his aggressive nature.
"We are going to grow as fast as our young guys will g
row up," Horton said. "We want to go out and give our offense a chance to not have to go out and score a ton of points to win games."
Coleman 'ready' if needed on punt return
At the end of the preseason, veteran Tramon Williams was elevated into the No. 1 spot at punt returner and was the only player used at the position last week at Philadelphia.
Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said he planned to use both Williams and rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman in the coming weeks on punts and stressed Coleman, who missed a portion of training camp with a hamstring injury, was "ready."
"I have great confidence in him. We are going to use both guys," Tabor said. "Tramon is a player that catches the ball very cleanly, and Corey has been catching the ball very cleanly, too. Very windy day down there and Tramon, kind of field position sometimes dictates where we play him ... He is a very capable returner. Don't lose sight because he has been in the league a while and hasn't done it for a while that he can't do it. He can do it.
"I'm excited for Corey to get his opportunities also because he is a dynamic player when the ball is in his hands."
Crow on special teams?
Isaiah Crowell isn't used much on special teams but he certainly made his one snap last week count.
The third-year running back charged from the other side of the field on a fourth-quarter punt return and brought Sproles down, limiting the speedy returner to an 8-yard return.
Tabor's explanation for Crowell's presence on the field was simple: "It is going to be about winning," and Crowell made a winning play.
"That is why we are going to put our best players out there and let them make plays," Tabor said. "I was really proud of his effort, his willingness and his toughness to get it done."
Feed the Crow
On Thursday, Browns coach Hue Jackson said the team had yet to turn Crowell "loose" in the running game. Crowell's stat line was deceiving, and Jackson acknowledged as such, as 40 of Crowell's 62 yards came on the final three plays of the game with the Eagles leading by 19.
How will that be remedied in the future? The answer isn't a complex one.
"We just have to hand it to him enough times," Jackson said. "If you have a runner you believe in, you have to give him the ball. He has to get a feel for the game and be able to play within the structure of what you are trying to accomplish with the offensive line. That's why I said I take responsibility for that. I think he is off to a good start. We just have to give him opportunities to go show his ability."
Crowell appreciates the confidence from his coach, saying it's what he's always wanted as a member of the Browns.
"It is important to me to know that he understands that the running game is important, also," Crowell said. "I appreciate that also, and we just have to get it done. Go out there and get it done for him because he believes in us."
With Alumni Weekend underway and Sunday's home opener pitting the Browns against their former franchise, veteran offensive lineman Joe Thomas talked Friday with the offense about the history of the rivalry.
Jackson has embraced the team's alumni with open arms since he was hired and continues to stress the importance of the Browns' past with the Browns of the present.
"I think it is important for people to understand the dynamics of the two organizations and how it works and how it came about, the good and the bad, because I think they need to understand the history of it all," Jackson said. "Joe did a really good job with the offense today. I will talk maybe a little bit more about it over this weekend."