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 are expected to be the primary backups to those players, and most of them are familiar faces.
4. BILLY WINN - BACKUP DEFENSIVE END
Sixth-round draft pick Billy Winn was touted as a potential sleeper last season, and he lived up to the bar that was set for him. Although he rotated a lot with John Hughes, Winn ended up starting 10 games while Phil Taylor was recovering from his pectoral injury.
Winn proved to be a high-energy player with a knack for getting hits on the quarterback. He showed quickness throughout the season and even recorded an interception.
With the switch to the 3-4 defense, Winn will be one of the team's backup defensive ends (and if the previous regime's mentality meant anything, Winn will be the first rotational lineman in at defensive end). Since he isn't a starter, his reps this season are bound to go down, but he'll still come in as a substitute for the sake of keeping Ahtyba Rubin or Desmond Bryant fresh.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
5. JOHN HUGHES - BACKUP DEFENSIVE END
One of the most overblown stories last year ended up being the drafting of John Hughes in the third round of the draft. People went crazy over the fact that he wasn't a "known player," and the illusion was that he would be overmatched at the NFL level.
While Hughes didn't start games like Billy Winn did, he also saw a significant amount of reps. In fact, he finished the season with more combined tackles than Winn and also had three sacks. Like Winn, I saw an effort out of Hughes that I appreciated. He seemed a bit overmatched when given too many reps, but he could be overpowering when he came in for just a couple of plays. That's what he'll be counted on to do again in 2013.
The Browns have been working him at defensive end, probably because they like Ishmaa'ily Kitchen as the backup nose tackle. Hughes has the size to stay inside, though, if Ray Horton ends up liking him there better.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
6. ISHMAA'ILY KITCHEN - BACKUP NOSE TACKLE
Defensive line coach Joe Cullen has got the love the depth that he has to work with across the defensive line. Last year, Ishmaa'ily Kitchen followed a similar path as Hughes and Winn -- because of injuries to Phil Taylor (and for one stretch, Ahtyba Rubin), Kitchen was forced into action as well. His reps were way less than the other defensive tackles, but he played enough to show he could be a solid contributor.
Unlike Hughes and Winn, Kitchen wasn't one to rush the passer very much. He was more of the giant cog in the middle who tries to eat up as much attention as possible. This year, he'll receive the opportunity to be the exclusive backup nose tackle to Taylor, instead of being fifth on the depth chart at defensive tackle like he was at the end of last season. It's a big challenge for Kitchen, and he does have some competition (who we'll get to in Part 3 of our defensive line preview), but right now he's the clear favorite.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
7. ARMONTY BRYANT - ROOKIE DEFENSIVE END
This is where things start getting interesting. The Browns have a total of 13 defensive linemen on their roster right now. With a 3-4 base defense, you need at least six guys -- your starting three, and a backup for each position. You don't necessarily need anybody else, though, because other members of the defense will end up playing multiple roles.
The defensive ends can move to the inside in the nickel defense. The outside linebackers can also move up to defensive end. Why, then, did the Browns draft a guy like Armonty Bryant in the seventh-round? Because sometimes, you make a roster exception for that extra player who you think can be a steal.
Looking at his size, you might wonder why Bryant isn't an outside linebacker. When he was drafted, head coach Rob Chudzinski touted Bryant as being an "explosive, speed off the edge, good sized defensive end who can apply pressure to the quarterback." Chudzinski added that Bryant was raw, but they loved his potential and expected him to put on some weight. He should be showing up to camp heavier than 263 pounds. He is on very thin ice though due to personal issues -- after being a troubled prior to the draft, he was arrested after Cleveland drafted him. Without those issues, some had him as a third- or fourth-round pick. He has apologized, but one more strike and he is gone.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
Practice Squad Odds: 80%
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we will cap off our defensive line preview with nuggets on Kendrick Adams, Brian Sanford, Nick Jean-Baptiste, Dave Kruger, Hall Davis, and Justin Staples. Right now, I think I'll split those into parts three and four to make sure each group of players gets fair recognition.
For now, our poll asks if you think the Browns will carry more than six defensive lineman on their final roster?