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Desmond Bryant's return critical to Cleveland Browns' defensive success


Desmond Bryant's return is great news for the Browns

Some of the best news of the Cleveland Browns' offseason came in the form of Desmond Bryant fully participating in workouts.

One of the seemingly underappreciated aspects of the 2013 Browns was that they had a true difference-maker in their defensive front.

And it wasn't the most highly touted free-agent pickup, outside linebacker Paul Kruger. Nor was it fellow outside-linebacker newcomer Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick of the draft, or even incumbent Jabaal Sheard, who was converted from defensive end to outside linebacker.

Bryant, from his spot on the defensive line, provided what most resembled a dominant force on the Browns' defense. He was, by far, the best of last year's additions, coming as a free agent from the Oakland Raiders.

Bryant consistently beat and beat up on opposing blockers with an amazing combination of power and quickness. He also showed tremendous instincts in finding his way to ball on a regular basis.

Then, in December, it suddenly came to a stop.

That was when Bryant was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat that would end his season and require him to undergo a procedure.

The circumstances were frightening, to say the least, but Bryant is fortunate to be able to put it behind him and immerse himself in preparing for the 2014 season.

As he recently told our staff writer, Kevin Jones, "I can't wait to get back on the field."

You can be certain that Browns coach Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil are equally anxious to see Bryant there.

When you're trying to put together a defense that is predicated on an overpowering pass rush, you must have a cornerstone player with which to build it. As defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills last season, Pettine had that player in Mario Williams.

For the Browns, that player is Bryant.

He only played 12 games last season, but he made himself noticed. He did it with a team-leading 32 quarterback harassments. He did it with 31 tackles. He did it with 3.5 sacks.

Bryant was even more noticeable in the final quarter of the season as the Browns' defense, which had shown so much promise early in the year, collapsed.

Strong defensive fronts need superb play from most, if not all, of their members. Outside linebackers are extremely important, and the Browns need much better production from Kruger and Mingo, and another solid season from Sheard, who was slowed by a knee injury last season.

But more than anything, they need Bryant to be everything he was before his health scare.

Ask Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews why – besides being fully healed from thumb surgery – he is so excited about his team's prospects for generating a better pass rush, and he'll tell you: the free-agent addition of defensive end Julius Peppers.

"(Opponents are) going to double the big guy," Matthews said. "And that leaves plenty of opportunities for me."

Kruger, Mingo, and Sheard should be saying the same thing this season.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for "Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford" on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on >>Have a question for "Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford"? Ask me at or by e-mail at or by calling 855-363-2459.

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