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Cleveland Browns outside linebackers training camp position battles

For as much noise that was made about the Browns' struggles in run defense, Cleveland ranked 27th in the NFL last season with just 31 sacks. Think about how much better this defense can be with more production in this area.

Signed in free agency in 2013, Paul Kruger busted out of his shell in 2014 with 11 sacks. Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil has said, just like cornerbacks, you can't have enough pass rushers.


The cast

Paul Kruger

Barkevious Mingo

Scott Solomon

Nate Orchard

Mike Reilly

Armonty Bryant (hybrid role)

What happened at OTAs?: Solomon, the breakout defensive player during the last two weeks of the 2014 season, received every first-team rep while Mingo rehabbed his shoulder injury. Mingo still saw work in 7-on-7 drills, but sported a red non-contact jersey. The Browns coaching staff trusts Kruger's ability to sack the quarterback, so he saw more reps in coverage situations against running backs and tight ends to try to sharpen those skills. Reilly is an undrafted rookie from William & Mary who could be a practice squad candidate.

Under the radar: Is it wrong to say Mingo? A season ago, the 2013 first-round selection injured his shoulder on the second play of the season and admirably played through it, even though surgery was an option. Mingo's stats (42 tackles, two sacks) don't tell the whole picture. Check out this film breakdown against the Colts where he was flying around like a missile.

Variables to consider: Orchard's development and Armonty Bryant's hybrid role. The Browns have five outside linebackers compared to 17 defensive backs and 14 defensive linemen. It shows the coaching staff and front office have faith that Orchard can make a splash this season as a rotational player. And then there's Bryant, who still meets in the defensive line classroom but has seen an increased number of reps as a stand-up pass rusher. Remember before his knee injury against the Steelers, the 25-year-old Bryant was really coming into his own.

Quote to note: "When we came out of training camp last year, we thought Mingo was one of our best outside backers. We all know about the injury he suffered in play two of the season. He is going to have to compete for playing time on early downs. He's going to have a role in our sub-packages. No one is guaranteed anything on the defense. Joe Haden knows that, Donte Whitner knows that and Karlos Dansby knows that. You're going to have to earn playing time." – Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil.

How many were kept last year?: 5

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