The Cleveland Browns probably gave a better indication of the brand of football they intend to play this season with their first pick of Day Two of the NFL Draft than their first two choices on Day One.
By selecting former Nevada offensive lineman Joel Bitonio in the second round and former Towson running back Terrance West in the third (after trading back into the round), the Browns reinforced the notion that they want to go the ground-and-pound route.
Yes, Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall selection, provides lock-down cornerback the Browns desperately had to have opposite Joe Haden to play the aggressive, attack-oriented defense they want to play. Yes, Johnny Manziel, the 22nd overall pick, brings tremendous excitement and will eventually be their franchise quarterback.
But the Browns made an emphatic statement about their desire to control the ball and put the game in the hands of their defense with the additions of Bitonio and West, along with the selection of Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey with an earlier third-round pick.
Bitonio is big (6-foot-4 and 302 pounds), strong, and extremely tough. He also has enough athleticism and mobility to fit well as a starter at right guard in the zone-blocking scheme that requires blockers to move well laterally. But Bitonio also has enough of a nasty attitude that has a good chance to be infectious within the rest of a line.
"I like to play hard," Bitonio said during a conference call with Browns media. "Football is played to the whistle and you have to play as hard as you can every snap. If you can play that hard every play, then there's a good chance that if you're equally talented and use your technique well, you'll be able to beat the guy you're going against. I want to play as hard as I possibly can.
"I know the AFC North is a tough, hard-nosed division, and I hope I can a little bit of that to the team."
The Browns had already added a guard in free agent Paul McQuistan, but that was never going to be the extent of what they would do to help their line (beyond matching the offer sheet that transition-free-agent center Alex Mack received from the Jacksonville Jaguars). At the very least, they needed to enhance their depth at the position.
Let's not forget the mantra of coach Mike Pettine, a former defensive coordinator.
Play dominant, physical defense. Don't put too much on the passing arm of your quarterback.
To do that, you need to be able to run the ball effectively. To run the ball effectively, you need solid backs (and the Browns now appear to have two in free agent Ben Tate and West) and a strong offensive line.
>>This Road to the Draft Feature is driven by Liberty Ford.
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