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Cleveland Browns defensive line training camp position battles

After five days of analysis on the offensive side of the ball, we're shifting our focus to a Cleveland Browns defense many believe could be among the NFL's best if the run defense improves.

If the Browns follow through with that plan, this area of the field will play a big part in why it happened.


The Cast

Armonty Bryant

Desmond Bryant

Xavier Cooper

John Hughes

Ishmaa'ily Kitchen

Jacobbi McDaniel

Jamie Meder

Danny Shelton

Tory Slater

Randy Starks

Phil Taylor

Christian Tupou

Billy Winn

Dylan Wynn

What happened at OTAs: A few months removed from a frustrating season full of injuries, the Browns' defensive line looked deep and healthier. It was a welcome sight for a defense that is bent on drastically improving its ranking as the NFL's worst rush defense in 2014. This group was without the No. 12 overall pick in the 2015 draft throughout OTAs, as Shelton finished up his coursework at the University of Washington before returning to Cleveland for the three-day veteran mini-camp. Taylor and Bryant remained limited by their respective injuries but are expected to ramp up the intensity at training camp. The different rotations utilized by defensive line coach Anthony Weaver were seemingly endless, and that was by design. Weaver and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil hope to find the best possible trios -- or quartets, depending on the scheme -- as they work through training camp and into the preseason.

Under the radar: Shelton, at 339 pounds and landing with the Browns as their first overall draft pick, understandably takes up his fair share of the spotlight. But the arrival of Cooper, a third-round pick, shouldn't be overlooked. He's 39 pounds lighter than Shelton and boasts a first step O'Neil and others have called one of the best among rookies throughout the NFL. He worked his way into a number of rotations throughout the offseason workout program and drew praise from his fellow teammates, whether it be other rookies or seasoned veterans. The former soccer player was drafted to contribute as a rookie, and he's done what's been asked of him to maintain that belief heading into training camp.

Variables to consider: Armonty Bryant is officially listed as a defensive lineman and has played end in recent years, but he's anticipated to split his time with the outside linebackers … Taylor will be making the move to nose guard after primarily playing as a three-technique last season … O'Neil said the Browns should be able to play with more four-man fronts in 2015 thanks to the added depth.

Quote to note: "I think he has all the potential in the world to be a three-down player. Just because of what I've said, the way he can collapse the pocket in pass rush will make more success for our edges, for the Paul Kruger's of the world, the Scott Solomon's, the Barkevious Mingo's. They will appreciate that. He will be able to help us a lot there in that aspect." -- Weaver, on Shelton

How many were kept at the end of the preseason last year?: Seven

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