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Browns Mailbag: How has the defense adjusted to new schemes from Jim Schwartz?

Staff writer Anthony Poisal answers your post-minicamp questions


Summer vacation is here for the Browns, who will have the next five weeks off until they begin training camp at The Greenbrier in West Virginia for the start of training camp.

We'll have plenty of content here on to keep you occupied and up to date until then, and we're continuing to fill the gap with our first mailbag since the team's offseason program concluded.

We've learned a lot about the team since then, so keep asking away as we count the days down 'til camp opens.

How is our defense coming along with their transition to Coach Schwartz's scheme, and have any particular players stood out so far in their role in it during practices and other organized team activities? - Nick Dolance, Glendale, AZ

Players raved about Schwartz all throughout OTAs and minicamp, and I really do think their appreciation for the schemes Schwartz has presented them is real.

With Schwartz, everything is straightforward — the defensive line will attack whoever has the football, the linebackers will clean up business if the ballcarrier reaches the second level of the defense and the secondary will keep things tight in a system that prefers to use man coverage rather than zone.

Those jobs seem to be appealing to everyone. The play calls appear to be simpler, and that allows players to think less before the snap and play with aggression all game.

"It's just a different type of attack defense," DT Dalvin Tomlinson said during minicamp. "I feel like this one is as aggressive as they get, and as a defense lineman, to be able to use all your power and explosiveness every single play is like dream come true."

Spring practices aren't a good setting to assess any defensive standouts since there's no pads and no contact, so we won't have any answers there until training camp. The most notable thing, which we touched on a few times last week, was that Schwartz wasn't afraid to be creative in matchups.

On several occasions, DE Za'Darius Smith was lined up in the interior, CB Denzel Ward was playing in the slot and three safeties were deployed in nickel formations. Those are unique looks that will be worth monitoring throughout training camp, and it's all part of Schwartz's plan to create as many favorable matchups as possible on every play once the regular season begins.

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The Browns staff were very high on WR Jakeem Grant and RB John Kelly last year. Have not seen anything about them this season. What can you tell us about these two players? - Robert Kaschner, Akron OH

Grant, a Pro Bowl returner in 2021, will once again be a player to watch throughout training camp a year after he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in his first training camp with the Browns. His reps during minicamp were limited, but he did practice fielding punts and will be in the competition for return duties once training camp begins.

"He's coming along," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He works really hard, still working hard in the meeting room. Even though he's not taking reps out here, he's still a major part of it and then able to slowly bring him along with the return game. And Jakeem is a pro. I love having him around, and he's working really hard."

Kelly, who's been on the practice squad over the last three years, is in the competition for backup duties behind Nick Chubb and Jerome Ford, who we discussed here Wednesday. He'll compete with undrafted rookie Hassan Hall, Nate McCrary and RB/WR Demetric Felton Jr. for a possible roster spot.

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Andrew Berry did a great job of making the Browns a complete team on all three phases. Do you think the winning has to be from coaching and players now, or can AB do more on building the roster? - Kenneth Piper, Dorset, OH

I think the Browns will be content with the roster they have now going into training camp, but the front office is always looking to add more talent, so there certainly could be more moves made over the next month and even after training camp begins.

Positions the Browns could explore adding to include defensive tackle, running back and linebacker. Again, I believe the Browns are content with who they have there now, but no roster is ever perfect, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Browns increase depth at positions that needed when the offseason began.

I just had a simple question regarding player numbers. According to your website, #43 and #48 are both being worn by 2 players. Is this still the case, or has either Diabate or Greaney and McCrary or McCalister been issued their own numbers now? - Dale Madaczky, North Royalton, OH

No number changes have happened yet. Those players were given the same numbers due to the lack of numbers available from the Browns that fit within NFL's jersey number guidelines, which you can find in the handy chart located here.

Retired numbers from the Browns also include Nos. 14, 32, 45, 46 and 76, so those are off the table, too.

Double numbers obviously won't happen once the roster is trimmed to 53 players. Others who currently share numbers include P Joseph Charlton and WR Jaelon Darden (No. 16) and WR Daylen Baldwin and QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (No. 17).

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