Skip to main content

Jim Schwartz coaching Browns' D with up-close view

Schwartz has focused on coaching communication and tempo with a view from the line of scrimmage in OTAs


Jim Schwartz hasn't spent much time on the sidelines when the Browns have done their seven-on-seven drills so far in spring practices.

Instead, Schwartz is crouched right at the line of scrimmage. His back is turned to the quarterback, and his eyes — and ears — are fixated on all of the defenders in front of him. 

"I'm just out there right now just trying to hear guys communicate, just to have a little presence out there and those things," he said. "I don't know if I'll be out there all the time. Right now, when things are new, I can get my ears real close to them and I can hear where the communication is. And that means you can feel the players."

Check out the action from practice at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus as the Browns go through organized team activities

To Schwartz, the Browns' veteran defensive coordinator, hearing and seeing his players on each play is all he can do to assess the state of the defense at this point of the offseason. 

There's no doubt Schwartz has a talented group, particularly after the acquisition of three-time Pro Bowl DE Za'Darius Smith in May that capped an offseason full of changes on the defensive line, but he still believes it's too early to construct any opinions on how the unit is coming together.

"It's too soon to really get a judge of where we are when you're not full speed," he said. "There's things that you can do with walkthroughs. There's things you can do, tempo and things like that. But to really play defense, you need to be physical. That's the number one thing. You need to be physical and we can't do that now."

The Browns aren't allowed to be physical until the pads come on in training camp, but through two open practices to media since OTAs began last week, it's clear that Schwartz plans to build a versatile, attack-minded defense that will give everyone a chance to make plays — particularly on the defensive line.

The biggest example of his aggressive D-Line philosophy has been through tackling dummies, which he's positioned behind the actual QB throughout the seven-on-seven periods. Edge rushers who aren't in the drill have still practiced getting off the ball and delivering a hit on the dummies. 

Schwartz wants all of his players to stay fresh so they can have the edge when it comes to attacking the QB, and he'll have the personnel to do it. 

In addition to Smith, the Browns have revamped the group with veterans Dalvin Tomlinson and Ogbo Okoronkwo, and it's possible that rookies Siaki Ika, Isaiah McGuire and other free-agent depth additions such as DTs Maurice Hurst and Trysten Hill could have big roles early, too.

"I think we got a lot of interchangeable spots," Schwartz said. "We'll play a lot of guys up front. We're not just going to play four guys. We'll roll through eight, maybe even nine guys at times, trying to keep guys fresh and keep them throwing 100 mph fastballs.

"The tempo that we want those guys to play, we need to rotate fresh troops in. Offensive lines don't sub, but we can. We can keep the pressure on those guys and we can play to a high standard with that depth."

Schwartz also plans to rotate players in his secondary. In Wednesday's practice, CB Denzel Ward played in the slot while Greg Newsome, who was the primary slot player last year, was on the outside. Newsome, however, had played the slot in the first open practice of OTAs last week.

At safety, Schwartz said the Browns will practice a heavy amount of three-safety packages during training camp. With Grant Delpit and free-agent acquisitions Juan Thornhill and Rodney McLeod, who has played in Schwartz' system before and "could play a game right now," the Browns will have no shortage of options for how they deploy that group.

"We value flexibility in those players," Schwartz said. "We value multidimensional skills. Right now, they're all playing all the positions. But again, by the end of training camp, we'll sort of get a feel for where we are and what our best matchups are, and we'll go with that."

For now, it's about teaching the basics, and Schwartz is choosing to do that with an up-close view from the line of scrimmage.

He'll move back to the sidelines eventually, but not until his refurbished defense holds the shape he wants.

"We're learning the players, we're learning their different personalities and we're learning where they're going to need to be pushed, where things are going to fall," he said. "So it's a learning experience for us, too."

Related Content