The Cleveland Browns need someone to call the plays in the defensive huddle this season after allowing linebacker B.J. Goodson, who was tasked with the responsibility last season, leave in free agency.
The role has traditionally been filled by a team’s middle linebacker, and defensive coordinator Joe Woods is apparently a bit of a traditionalist as he will hand play calling duties to linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. this fall.
That is according to safety John Johnson III, who let the news slip on Thursday during his time with the media, according to The Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich:
“I can just say Anthony Walker has stood out to me. He’s the signal caller for us. He’s going to be a big part of this defense, and we live close by to each other. We talk about ball all the time.
“The previous place he was at [Indianapolis], they had a lot of success on defense, so he really stands out to me. He’s in the middle. Everything goes through him and it will trickle down to everyone else.”
Head coach Kevin Stefanski later confirmed that Walker will be the one calling the defensive plays in the huddle, according to a team-provided transcript:
“It is Anthony and it is our linebackers. Ultimately, who calls it is a coaches’ decision on what makes the most sense. Anthony as a MIKE linebacker, you have heard us say he gets everybody lined up, and you have to be vocal and you have to know what you are talking about. You have to be both loud and demonstrative in how you do it, but you better know what you are saying, as well. Anthony fits that bill, as well.”
Walker is in his first season with the Browns after spending the past three years with the Indianapolis Colts as a member of the team’s top 10 defense. He also called the plays for the Colts last season, although at his introductory press conference in March he said he would be comfortable either way, according to a team-provided transcript:
“I have played with it, I have played without it. Never felt that I needed it or did not need it to get my job done, honestly. Whatever responsibility and role that I am trusted with to do this season, I am going to do it. If that is wearing the green dot, I will wear it and communicate the same way I will with anything. And if I do not wear it, I will still communicate the same way I do. All I need is the call, honestly, and we play football from there. I have always prided myself on knowing what the call is coming in before I should know that. We should know as a defense what coach wants to call on this down and distance versus this personnel grouping or whatever it is. Hopefully, I am trusted with that job and I will take it and run with it.”
Given his history with the Colts it makes sense that Walker would be given the responsibility of calling the defensive plays for the Browns. Today’s news does have an interesting small twist, however.
With the Browns expected to play with just two linebackers as much as possible this season, that would appear to mean Walker will be on the field every down, leaving the rest of the linebacker group to fight among themselves for playing time at the other open spot.