Skip to main content

2020 NFL Draft

Why pass rushers are at a premium for the Browns until further notice

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ray Horton used a couple of current events to describe why he'll always welcome a dynamic pass rusher.

As he spoke from Berea last week, Horton referenced Super Bowl 50, a game dominated by Denver's defense, which was spearheaded by pass rushers Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. Miller was named the game's MVP and is expected to receive a major increase in salary over the coming weeks.

Horton also made a reference to the Browns' recent announcement to build a statue of legendary running back Jim Brown outside of FirstEnergy Stadium. In Horton's eyes, it's a nod to the past in more ways than one.

"When he comes back and is the best player in the league, when that running back is the best player in the league, we won't be looking for that (pass rusher) anymore," Horton said. "Until they change it, we will be looking for a guy who can get around the corner and hit the quarterback."

It's not just the Browns looking for pass rushers. It's essentially everyone in the NFL because Horton's philosophy is shared by most in his position.

Finding the right ones, of course, is easier said than done.

"Von Miller's ain't falling out of the sky, all over the place," Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

The popular phrase espoused by most defensive coaches is "affecting the quarterback." That includes, but extends far beyond sacks, as a player can prove to be plenty disruptive without filling up that column of the stat sheet.

Ohio State's Joey Bosa, who had just five sacks in 2015 but is considered to be the top pass rusher in this year's class, exemplifies that notion.

"I was focused on how my defense was playing," Bosa said. "If I was double-teamed and not getting there, I knew somebody else was going to. As long as we're succeeding as a defense, I was happy."

Focusing specifically on Cleveland in 2016, Horton is looking for help for Paul Kruger, who piled up big sack numbers in 2014 but didn't in 2015, as he played in a handful of different roles. Whether that player is in this year's draft or not remains to be seen, but the Browns want competition among the other members of the group, which includes last year's second-round pick, Nate Orchard.

"We have to be able to give (Kruger) a Batman to his Robin or a Robin to his Batman, whoever he wants to be in the equation," Horton said. "We have to give him help on the other side. Obviously in this league, you can't just rush. You can't be one-dimensional. You can't rush all the time. You've got to drop. You've got to do different things. Whether we rush eight guys or whether we rush three, you have to do what's called on the defense. We are going to give him opportunities."

Because the Browns want the kind of player many others around the league similarly desire, many of the top pass rushers will be off the board if Cleveland picks a player at a different position with the No. 2 pick. But there is still plenty of talent beyond the first round, as Orchard displayed during a promising final month to his rookie season.

The top tier features Bosa, Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence, Clemson's Shaq Lawson, Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah and Georgia's Leonard Floyd. The second-round and beyond group includes a number of players who were prolific at the college level, too, as Michigan State's Shalique Calhoun, Arizona's Scooby Wright and Boise State's Kamalei Correa look to prove viable pass rushers can be found beyond Day 1 of the draft.

"I have faith in myself, I have faith in my abilities," Calhoun said. "I have faith that I can rise to the next level with the right amount of training and right amount of coaching."

Horton is there to provide the coaching for whomever he has in the stable to rush the quarterback. He'll only change his mentality when the game changes.

"The league has a 5-yard rule – you can't touch a receiver (after 5 yards)," Horton said. "Now, once that receiver goes up, you can't hit him high, you can't hit him too low and you can't hit him too hard. There is a rule on the quarterback. You can't hit him in the head, you can't hit him in the knee and you can't throw him to the ground.

"You better affect the quarterback."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content