Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil spoke to the media on the final day of minicamp. Here are some highlights of what he had to say:
Continuity With Coaching: It feels good to have some continuity on the defensive coaching staff because it allows the previous year's defensive system to be built on with both new and returning players. Here is what O'Neil said about that topic:
"I do think [the defense] will look a little different. We are different every year just schematically because we are going to build the scheme around our players. What our top three or four calls were last year might not necessarily be the top three or four calls this year. Obviously, we have some new pieces to work with, and we’ve been able to throw a lot at these guys in Year 2. There will be some more pressures. There will be some more base fronts. We’ve thrown a couple extra coverages at them. There will be some things that look different."
Sharing the Confidence of the Secondary: When asked how good the Browns' secondary could be, O'Neil agreed with the notion that Cleveland could end up having the best secondary in the NFL. He says they still have to go out and prove it, of course, but that teams with the best secondaries are usually still playing come January.
The Goal for Danny Shelton: The Browns have only been able to work with NT Danny Shelton for minicamp since he was finishing up his degree during OTAs, but O'Neil praised how much information he's been able to learn in a short period of time. O'Neil commented on how they envision Shelton impacting the defense in a best-case scenario:
"[When] you draft a guy like that, you hope that he’s going to eat up two blocks at the point of attack, which might allow you to play in lighter spacing, maybe play a little more two high safeties instead of loading the box up. The thing that we’re excited about is his ability to push the pocket in the passing game and get the quarterback off his spot because we feel that is going to make the rest of our pass rushers better.
When the quarterback is moving instead of just being able to stand in the pocket like a statue, when you have guys who are good at fighting what we call the ‘soft shoulder’ and really do a good job of getting around guys like (DL) Armonty (Bryant), guys like (LBs) Nate Orchard and Paul Kruger, that’s going to really help them, (DL) Des Bryant. We think that having that guy who can push the pocket and the quarterback off his spot is going to make everybody around him better."
Making Players Earn It: Although O'Neil said that OLB Barkevious Mingo would have a role in sub-packages on defense, when he's healthy (hopefully by training camp), he is going to have to earn playing time on early downs. O'Neil also noted that OLB Scott Solomon is "quickly becoming one of his favorite players" and has nicknamed him "bloodbath." He says that Solomon and Armonty Bryant will compete with each other, once Bryant is ready-to-go.
- Under-the-Radar Players: O'Neil was asked who this year's "K'Waun Williams" could be. O'Neil went by position and said DL Xavier Cooper on the defensive line for his ability to get off the ball, OLB Scott Solomon (as mentioned earlier), ILB Tank Carder for "having an unbelievable offseason" and being "one of the best blitzers on the team," and S Jordan Poyer for the pre-snap communication and man coverage abilities he's displayed while filling in for FS Tashaun Gipson.
Click here to read the full transcript of O'Neil's interview.