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Four Downs: Examining the overlooked, whirlwind week of Jayson DiManche


1. How Jayson DiManche went from the Chiefs practice squad to Browns special teams player in matter of days

Jayson DiManche's signing last week didn't garner many national headlines, and neither did his performance Sunday against the Rams.

But how he went from a Kansas City practice squad player on a different team to a player Cleveland could trust on 17 special teams snaps in a matter of days is worth just a little insight. It's a kind of move that happens around the NFL all the time and is either taken for granted or completely overlooked.

It starts with familiarity.

DiManche, a highly featured player in the 2013 edition of Hard Knocks, played 28 games over two seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals. That gave Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor a good enough of an idea about the type of player he was and how he'd fit with what the Browns like to accomplish in the game's third phase.

DiManche's reputation as smart player who can react quickly to all sorts of circumstances made Tabor even more comfortable with him. He was signed on a Tuesday, the team's off day. He replaced running back Shaun Draughn, who was similarly active on special teams.

"When he got in our building and you visit with him and start going over the scheme, you could tell that he picks things up very, very quickly," Tabor said. "I am glad he is here."

The feeling is mutual with DiManche, who patiently waited for his opportunity to return to the field ever since the Bengals released him two days before the season opener. That patience was pivotal upon his arrival in Cleveland, as the Browns coaches threw information, schemes and anything else they could think of at him in swift fashion.

Needless to say, he passed the test. DiManche finally caught his breath after Sunday's game.

"It takes a lot of patience, a lot of concentration and just peace of mind to be calm in a situation like that," DiManche said. "A lot of times, guys come in and are kind of panicked. It took a lot of patience for me and just kind of being real chill about it and not overreacting."

Tabor said he hopes to expand DiManche's role in the coming weeks. Considering he played 65 percent of the Browns' special teams snaps -- the most anyone else played was 88 -- there isn't too much to add to DiManche's plate that isn't already on there.

He'll just enter Sunday's game against Arizona with a little more rest and a little more comfort with what he's been tasked to do as a core special teams player.

"My goal is to be able to do everything I can to help the team out," DiManche said. "Whatever they ask me to do, I'll do it to the best of my ability and try to help them be successful in Cleveland."

2. Shifting gears

The Browns aren't satisfied with where they rank in a number of the league's defensive categories, but one point of pride can be found on third downs.

Cleveland is third in the AFC and sixth overall on third down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 34.7 percent of the time. In the last two games, Browns opponents have converted just five-of-27.

Asked about the group's success, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil revealed something unexpected. The Browns have shifted their focus to first and second downs in practice, due largely to the struggles they've had stopping the run.

"We're stealing nine to 10 reps a week on early downs than we have been on third down," O'Neil said. "I think that just for us, our safeties do a great job disguising."

The challenge to maintain that lofty ranking gets tougher Sunday. No quarterback in the NFL has been better on third downs than Arizona's Carson Palmer.

"They're definitely an offensive staff that understands defensive football, they understand defensive coverages and they know how to get guys open," O'Neil said. "We have to be on our A game on third down. We know the challenge that's coming."

3. He said it

Mike Pettine's liked what he's seen from Browns players throughout the week as they prepare for the Cardinals, but knows the perception of the team won't change because of what he sees on the practice field.

He made that crystal clear after Friday's practice.

"Internally, I think you can see positives, but nobody on the outside wants to see 'Hey, we lost but these are the positives that we're taking from it,'" Pettine said. "We all know what we're getting paid for and that's to win football games."

4. Stat of the week

Browns rookie running back Duke Johnson ranks fourth among NFL running backs and third among all NFL rookies with 31 receptions. That total is the most by a Browns rookie through seven games in franchise history.

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