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Sheldon Richardson seeks 'pure dominance' from healthy, veteran-heavy defensive line

Sheldon Richardson has been thinking about a position change.

Don't take that seriously — Richardson, of course, is joking. He's preparing for his second season as a defensive tackle in Cleveland, but at age 29, Richardson feels that one of his biggest seasons of his eight-year career is ahead.

After a rejuvenating offseason, Richardson feels he can play anywhere on the field. Offense, defense, special teams — he's ready.

"(I could be) tight end, a little goal-line running back, like my rookie year," Richardson said with a laugh in a video call Friday with local reporters. "I feel pretty good, honestly."

Richardson, who also caught a punt during a playful drill at the beginning of the Browns' final practice Friday at FirstEnergy Stadium, took full advantage of the extended, unusual offseason before he arrived in Berea for Year 2 in Cleveland. After fighting through injuries last season, Richardson embraced being able to work out from home — he had plenty of time to allow his body to heal before he spent long hours running outdoors and lifting weights in any available weight room — and is ready for a full, healthy start to the season with the other talented members of Cleveland's defensive line.

"Pure dominance," Richardson said. "That's how I'm looking at it. We're not woofing about it — it's just straight work."

Cleveland's defensive line couldn't sustain the full season of dominance they expected last season after Olivier Vernon, Larry Ogunjobi and Myles Garrett missed time with injuries or suspensions. The lack of veterans in the trenches hurt the Browns in their playoff push last season, and the defense could only muster one sack in five of the last seven games of the season.

Check out exclusive photos from Thursday's practice in Berea

Richardson, however, was a constant force. He played in all 16 games and garnered 62 tackles, three sacks and four pass deflections. He did all he could to keep the Browns afloat, but it's tough for any defense to stay consistent under a constant rotation of defense linemen.

Now, the core linemen are back, healthy and absorbing the new styles and looks of defensive coordinator Joe Woods' 4-3 scheme. Richardson said he feels as though linemen have more freedom under Woods' styles, and with a defensive line full of established NFL veterans, Richardson can't wait to harass the backfield.

"The main part is being in the right place at the right time, and you'll get all the production you'll need," he said. "It's D-line friendly. Everybody has an opportunity on the D-line to make plays without being wrong."

That production will start in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, and the defensive line will have its hands full in corralling reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. When the core starters were healthy in Week 4 last season, Jackson was sacked four times and limited in both the ground and passing attacks, leading to the Browns' best game of the season

With Richardson feeling in top shape and playing with a healthy defensive line, how much damage could the group do in Week 1?

"You'll just have to wait and see," he said with a smile.

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