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2020 NFL Draft

Jim O'Neil: New faces on Browns D will 'bring out the best in everybody'

Mike Pettine joked Saturday that he looked at his roster and suddenly felt like a better coach after the addition of 12 draft picks.

Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil can't wait to see not only how the new players fit in to what the Browns want to accomplish in 2015, but also how it brings an even higher level of play out of the team's returning veterans.

"We were happy with our defensive roster going in (to the draft)," O'Neil said. "I do think Ray Farmer and his staff did a great job adding some guys for us. On college tape, they play like Browns. Competition will be high at every level of the defense. I'm excited about that.

"Anytime you get guys in a competitive environment, it brings out the best in everybody."

When he glances at his roster now, O'Neil sees seven rookies and four veterans acquired through free agency that weren't there when the 2014 season ended. Even more will be there this weekend, when the Browns welcome a handful of undrafted free agents and a slew of tryout players to join their draft picks at rookie mini-camp.

The Browns' offseason losses on defense were significant -- defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin, linebacker Jabaal Sheard and defensive back Buster Skrine left in free agency while veteran safety Jim Leonhard retired -- but they've compensated with plenty of additions of their own. Needless to say, there are more seats filled in O'Neil's defensive meeting room, and that's the way he likes it.

"I think that's been the MO of Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer since we got here," O'Neil said. "They're going to drive competition at every position group. The more competition you have, the better it is for everyone."

The defensive line room has been the beneficiary of the largest injection of fresh faces. On top of multiple players returning from serious injuries, the group now features battle-tested Randy Starks, two highly coveted rookies in Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper and whomever else signs or lands on the team as an undrafted free agent.

It's another pivotal step toward addressing the team's struggles against the run and freeing lanes for pass rushers in 2014. One of the players expected to fly through those lanes, outside linebacker Nate Orchard, was added early in the draft, too.

"Drafting Danny Shelton's just a mammoth of a person inside, so anytime you add a guy that's going to force two guys to block him it's going to free things up for other guys and keep those linebackers clean to the ball," O'Neil said. "I'm excited about Nate Orchard as far as an edge rusher and he also has a versatile skill set where he could potentially do some drop stuff, do some things in coverage for us. Then Xavier Cooper, the guy we traded up to go get. He was a guy I know we as a defensive staff thought very highly of. We were shocked he was there late in the third round.

"It was an exciting three days for everyone."

Check out how the defense looks after an offseason full of acquisitions. "*" indicates they're new to the team.

Defensive line

Calvin Barnett

Armonty Bryant (splitting time at OLB)

Desmond Bryant

*Xavier Cooper

John Hughes

Ishmaa'ily Kitchen

Jacobbi McDaniel

Jamie Meder

*Danny Shelton

*Randy Starks

Phil Taylor

Christian Tupou

Billy Winn

Inside linebacker

Tank Carder

Karlos Dansby

Darius Eubanks

Chris Kirksey

*Hayes Pullard

Craig Robertson

Outside linebacker

Paul Kruger

Barkevious Mingo

*Nate Orchard

Keith Pough

Scott Solomon

Defensive backs

Johnson Bademosi

*Ibraheim Campbell

Pierre Desir

*Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (injured)

*Charles Gaines

Justin Gilbert

Tashaun Gipson

Joe Haden

Kendall James

Robert Nelson

*Micah Pellerin

Jordan Poyer

*Varmah Sonie

Donte Whitner

K'Waun Williams

*Tramon Williams

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