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Veteran Browns happy to see Ray Horton back, younger ones excited by what they've already learned

Earlier this year, Ray Horton laid out something of a blueprint for how the Browns might be able to turn around a defense that struggled last season.

Several members of Cleveland's defense Tuesday offered testimony that suggests the unit is heading in the right direction.

"(It's) definitely great to see him back," said outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who played for Horton in 2013. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ray. I love the way he coaches. It's a lot of fun. It's nice that it's familiar and just know what to expect.

"He's a guy that just really respects you as a player. He talks to you like a man and expects you to go get it done. A lot of guys respond well to it."

Indeed, as the Browns continue their offseason workouts — voluntary veteran minicamp began Tuesday — there is a certain sense of optimism around Berea under first-year coach Hue Jackson and a new coaching staff.

That, of course, includes Horton, who returns to Cleveland after two seasons with the Tennessee Titans in the same capacity.

"It's very nice to see him back. I missed him when he left, but he's back now," outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo said. "He's back leading this defense, and we're looking to just replicate some of the things we did that first year and just win some ball games."

While Horton's 3-4 defense is schematically similar to previous coaching staffs, the deviations seem to lie within the finer points of the system. In February, Horton said he prefers an approach where players read and react.

"I have a saying and they will see it very soon. Everything is simple if you understand it. Now, what does that mean? It means it is simple if you understand it," he said. "We try to teach and deliver in a way that is very simple. It is complex, but it's very simple if you understand it. They will have zero issues or I will change it. If it's too complex, I will change it for them."

So far, so good. Browns players have spoken of Horton's defense as being one that's easy to understand and easy to execute.

"He tries to simplify (the game) as much as possible," linebacker Christian Kirksey said.

The Browns returned to the practice fields Tuesday to open voluntary veteran minicamp.

Such an understanding of the system might lend itself to confidence.

"I think we have a chance to be a good defense, especially with Ray Horton coming in here. His defense is a good defense, you can see the track record," Kirksey said. "He's a guy that has a lot of knowledge of the game."

Kruger, who is expected to play a major role next season, added Horton's "a coach that just brings a consistency and he gives you a sense of wanting to be responsible for you and your teammates and each other."

"I love his phrase: 'Have a plan,' and he applies that to everything in your life," Kruger continued.

"So I just think the message he's giving us is not only one of positivity and growth and looking forward to this year, but it's also how to live your life and how to be a good man, husband, father. I really enjoy that about him because you're gaining a lot from all angles of it."

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