The Browns finally got around to firing defensive coordinator Dick Jauron on Monday, which meant that they could officially introduce defensive coordinator Ray Horton at a press conference on Tuesday.
Horton’s had the job for a little while now, so we’ve already heard him talk about how his background running the 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh and Arizona doesn’t mean that he’s married to it in Cleveland. He repeated that on Tuesday, saying that he plans to run a scheme with multiple fronts that is tailored to make the best use of the personnel on the Browns roster. That personnel doesn’t need major overhaul because Horton saw “the perfect mix here of big guys that can run and little guys that will hit” when looking at the Browns defense.
He further explained what he meant by putting players in position to succeed by talking specifically about Jabaal Sheard. Sheard has 15.5 sacks as a defensive end in the last two years and expressed some trepidation about moving positions in Horton’s defense. Horton tried to put those fears to rest on Tuesday when asked if Sheard could move to outside linebacker.
“I would hope my answer would be, ‘Let’s not put limits on what players can and cannot do.’ Jabaal is a guy that I have seen on film that can rush the quarterback and is athletic. What we are going to do as a coaching staff is put each one of our guys in the best position,” Horton said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’m looking at the offense we are playing and what they do best and what can I do to take it away. (Sheard) may be a strong safety some time, he can be a linebacker, he can be a D end. I want him to tell me what he can do best and not put a label on what he is.”
It’s a wise approach to take with a new job. Horton obviously has things he’s going to want to do on defense with any personnel, but success is likelier to come quickly if he maximizes the talent of the players on hand instead of prioritizing his own schematic notions at every turn.