The phrase "front 7" is football lingo at its finest. People remember great front 7's as team and number combinations. The '85 Bears. The '86 Giants. The Steelers of the 70's. It is a phrase broken down into a sum of it's parts, 3-4 or 4-3, for understanding and clarification. It is a phrase that often peaks in the football mind's forefront during Super Bowl week or draft week.
But it is phrase that carries less weight than it used to. In theory, the phrase "back 5" should be gaining the lost steam. The back 5 would refer to a teams secondary. The way the front 7 can be broken down into clear visions of lineman and linebacker structure could be the very reason for it's historic significance. The phrase back 5 however, has no such simple structure. It could be made up of a strong safety, a free safety, 2 cornerbacks, and a slot corner. Or it could be made up of 3 safeties and 2 corners, But there is also the frequency of a dime package which could include 3 safeties and 3 corners or 2 safeties and 4 corners. This complicates the situation because now there is the possibility of a "back 6."
What does this mean for the Browns as the draft approaches? Well the Browns figure to employ the back 5 on more defensive snaps than they would the front 7. This is commonplace. On the majority of plays in the NFL, defenses roll out 6 or fewer lineman/linebacker combos. Over the years, as the NFL has become more of a passing league, the use of an actual front 7 has diminished.
The Browns have an excellent array of talent at the front 7 positions. Bryant, Bryant, Taylor, Rubin, Hughes, Wynn, Mingo, Sheard, Kruger, Dansby. There are 10 names right there, and there are some others that provide depth.
The back 5 is not quite as deep. Haden, Skrine, and Whitner. Those are surefire starters in the secondary. Other names, like Gipson, Trufant, and McFadden, may be penciled into the starting lineup, but the pink eraser on that pencil currently seems ever so bright.
Pettine seems to me to be a very sharp-minded defensive coach well aware of current NFL trends. Farmer, like Pettine, also has a defensive background, as he played some safety in college. I look for the Browns to address the secondary early and often in the draft as this seems like a very strong secondary class.
Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, and Kyle Fuller would all look good in brown and orange. These players look well skilled for the CB2 position opposite Joe Haden. Jason Verrett seems to have a very similar game to Buster Skrine's, and although I would applaud the pick, I have to wonder if the Browns may be leaning elsewhere. Bradley Roby might be the hometown favorite, but after the Wisconsin game this year, I have my doubts about how his skills will translate to the next level.
At safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be an ideal fit in Cleveland. He plays the deep/free safety position as well as any prospect and would make a great compliment to Donte Whitner, who could stay closer to the line and bark out the signals. A couple of other guys that may look good at that position are Jimmie Ward and Lamarcus Joyner. Both are smaller in size, but are ballhawks and playmakers.
Other big names at safety in this class are Calvin Pryor and Deone Bucannon. These guys seem to resemble the strong safety type, and the Browns may be looking more toward addressing the free safety position. I loved Gipson's 5 interceptions last year, but there is nothing wrong with some healthy competition.
I feel the Browns may use as many as two of their top 3 picks to address the secondary. Seattle showed the world what a dominant secondary could accomplish last year as they shut down arguably the most prolific passing offense in NFL history. I look for the Browns to hearken back to the glory days of the Dawg Pound, where the secondary set the tone for the rest of the defense. Adding Dennard and Ward at picks 26 and 35, or trading back a few spots from 4 to select Clinton-Dix and get more draft pick ammunition could be winning moves for Cleveland.