In Part 1 of our training camp preview on the Cleveland Browns' defensive line, we looked at the starting unit from left to right: DE Ahtyba Rubin, NT Phil Taylor, and DE Desmond Bryant. Today, we look at the players who will be the primary backups to those players. Just like the starting unit, there aren't any new faces in today's training camp preview.
4. BILLY WINN - BACKUP DEFENSIVE END
In his second year with the Browns in 2013, Billy Winn was only able to play in 11 games. He started the first two games of the season while Ahtyba Rubin was out, but a quad injury kept him out the next five weeks, which perhaps put a wrench in his opportunity to have a breakout season.
Winn finished last season with 21 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. None of our defensive linemen are expected to have flashy statistics in the 3-4 defense, especially with the deep rotation the team has available. Winn also lined up at fullback a couple of times last season, but I don't think we'll be seeing much of that again under a new coaching staff.
The question for Winn is whether or not this is the year he becomes a full-time starter. Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said that Winn is versatile because "he shows the ability to get off the ball and knock people back and he’s also really good moving laterally when we stunt the line." One thing is for certain: the former sixth-round draft pick was a winning pick for former GM Tom Heckert.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
5. JOHN HUGHES - BACKUP DEFENSIVE END
Met with much criticism when he was a third-round pick in 2012, I think it's also fair to say that John Hughes is another winning back from the Tom Heckert era. Both he and Winn have made it so that the team has zero concerns about the depth on the defensive line.
Hughes received high accolades from Pro Football Focus this offseason. After all of their film review, they determined that Hughes was actually the best performing defensive lineman on the team, and was particularly strong against the run. I've always had it etched in my brain that Hughes is very effective as a role player, so I don't anticipate him taking over a starting role. In 15 games last year, Hughes registered 34 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 passes defended.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
6. ISHMAA'ILY KITCHEN - BACKUP NOSE TACKLE
Just how deep is the Browns' defensive line? Even though Ishmaa'ily Kitchen does not get many reps, Pro Football Focus still labeled him as an "average starter." It's pretty impressive when every one of your backup rotational players could qualify as at least an average starter.
Kitchen played in 13 games last year and registered 18 tackles. The reason his roster spot would seem a little secure is the fact that there isn't much competition for the backup nose tackle position. Granted, Hughes definitely has the size to move to nose tackle, but he'll probably stay at defensive end, given how effective he was a year ago.
Final Roster Odds: 80%
7. ARMONTY BRYANT - ROOKIE DEFENSIVE END
Here is your wildcard: Armonty Bryant. A seventh-round pick in 2013, Bryant didn't start receiving much playing time until the back-half of the season, and he capitalized on his opportunity. He finished the season with 12 tackles and 2 sacks.
The reason Bryant remains a wildcard is the fact that he's still a relatively unknown commodity. Unless he's added a lot of weight this offseason, he's also a lot leaner than the rest of the players competing at defensive end. Fortunately for Bryant, it does sound like head coach Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil have some plans for him:
"He’s a guy that we’re looking forward to getting out there probably more likely in nickel pass-rush situations," Pettine said. "I think it’s difficult for him to excel in the spring without pads on. He’s one of those guys that’s probably better off once we’re fully suited up. He’s a guy that I remember Coach O’Neil specifically liked him coming out [of East Central], studied him in his college tape. We were happy to find him on the roster when we got here. ... I think he has some versatility," Pettine said. "I think we can move him around. I think he could play outside [linebacker] in a pinch if we had to. But for now, I’d say predominantly he’ll have his hand down."
Bryant has also commented that he has cleaned up his personal life and is confident he can play in this league.
Final Roster Odds: 75%
Note: the only reason Winn and Hughes aren't listed as 100% for their final roster odds is because I feel a coaching turnover can often create some uncertainty. Talent-wise, they deserve to be 100%.