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All hands on deck as young Browns defense gears up for season opener

Ray Horton isn't blinking when it comes to the youth of the Browns defense.

The defensive coordinator is well aware of the unit's makeup and how it's set to feature a handful of rookies and other young players in Sunday's season opener at Philadelphia.

"We know we're young," the defensive coordinator said Friday.

And the Browns intend to use that to their advantage.

"We're excited about what that entails with the speed and the athleticism on the field and just the excitement of guys in their first NFL game, the locker room and going out," Horton said, adding the coaching staff will roll players in and out of the lineup as a means of getting the most out of their defensive personnel.

"We are going to be pieces of guys coming in playing one spot moving to another spot, position flexibility and it is going to be excited to watch them grow."

Horton added: "We're are going to play a lot of players," he said. "We are going to be that type of defense where if you have a hat, you will play for us."

The Browns' retooled defense will rely on a handful of young and new faces such as rookie outside linebackers Emmanuel Ogbah and Joe Schobert (who are listed as starters on the team's unofficial depth chart) and rookies defensive end Carl Nassib, safety Derrick Kindred and cornerback Tracy Howard (who are also expected to see playing time in Philadelphia).

Horton, who said this is his first time guiding this young of a defense, said he's eager to see how the group comes together.

"We wanted to revamp (the defense) and go and put some young players out there and we are. I'm excited for them," he said. "They are bright-eyed. They have learned the system. They have done everything we have asked them to do."

In the preseason, Ogbah and Nassib — whom the Browns drafted to bolster their pass rush — totaled four sacks and were able to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Schobert and Kindred, meanwhile, also earned praise from the coaching staff for their steady play.

"It's been quick. We've seen these guys since May and more their personalities, watching them and watching them mature really quickly. I don't think they knew they were going to play this fast but they are," Horton said.

"For me, it's just trying to calm them down. Maybe they don't know. Sometimes, it's good that you don't know. I've watched these guys."

Now, Horton said, it's time for them to take the next step.

"When I said, 'if you have a helmet, you are going to play,' they are. We're not trying to blow smoke anywhere," he said.

"We're going to play our guys. We are going to roll them through and let them play football."

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