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OTAs & Minicamp

Newsflash: The Browns have some good defenders, too, says Freddie Kitchens

These days, all of the Browns-related attention seems to be paid to the team's new infusion of young, high-level talent on the offensive side of the ball.

It begins with the quarterback, Baker Mayfield, then expands to the star-studded receiving corps. Mayfield attempted to direct some eyes toward the running backs Wednesday, saying he hoped their lack of attention serves as motivation for them come August.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens, meanwhile, is taking it a step further. Look on the other side of the ball, the coach advised.

"I don't know if you guys got the AP Wire. Is there an AP Wire still going on these days? Anyways, we signed some defensive guys that can play some football," Kitchens told reporters Wednesday. "We really did. (Defensive tackle) Sheldon Richardson, (defensive end) Olivier Vernon, (safety) Morgan Burnett, we added some pieces on defense, too. Hopefully, you guys in the fall start talking about them a little bit."

They're worth talking about and talking to. On Wednesday, Vernon spoke to the local media for the first time since the Browns acquired him via trade in March. Like much of what is said in May, his message was fairly simple: The Browns still have a ways to go to get things figured out all over the roster.

"It's a little early, but from what I've seen, everybody is just trying to get the right fit, trying to gel together, getting an understanding of the defense," Vernon said. "That's it, pretty much. Just trying to set the standard each and every day, trying to meet those. Just building chemistry. That's the main thing."

Chemistry is one element touted by many optimists when taking a look at the Browns' roster, which projects Vernon to line up at one defensive end position and Pro Bowler Myles Garrett at the other. It seems like a natural pairing of potential quarterback destruction. Oh, and Vernon is a Pro Bowler, too, and working in the more familiar 4-3 defense he became accustomed to for much of his professional career.

"I think that is one part of it, and he can also help No. 95," Kitchens said. "He can also help Myles by him being on the other side. The more good football players you put around Myles, the better he is going to be, just as is the case with anybody."

In short time, the Browns have gone from a young team relying on green players to make plays to a team with a good balance of youthful and veteran talent. That balance especially permeates the defense, which welcomes Vernon and Sheldon Richardson to a defensive line that already featured Garrett and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. In the secondary, Denzel Ward, and Greedy Williams are the most notable youngsters in a group that also includes Terrance Mitchell and T.J. Carrie, among others. Even safety has this duality, with 25-year-old Eric Murray coming to Cleveland via trade to join with Damarious Randall, who's in the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, and veteran Morgan Burnett, who arrived via free agency.

Check out photos from the third day of OTA practices

Much has been made about the many personalities on this roster, but part of what helps a team achieve success in an NFL season is strong veteran leadership. These additions bolster what was lacking in previous years.

"He is a definition of a leader. He kind of gets those guys together," Kitchens said of Burnett. "He has been through the fire. I like guys that have been in fights -- like been in the fight, not in fights. ... I like guys that have been in the battle or battle tested. Coach (Bill) Parcells used to say all the time that he wants to leave training camp and his team be battle tested. That is what we want to get to. You just can't do it right now."

There it was again, the caveat that we all know we're in the middle of May. We don't know much yet. But we know, at least on paper and in shorts and helmets, the foundation for success is there. We'll see the next phase in late July.

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