Help provided via the draft
One of the most intriguing prospects is the fourth-round prospect, Jacob Phillips, the tackling machine from the Louisiana State University Tigers. If you take the point of view that the Browns are going to use a situational defense with three linebackers for running downs and two linebackers for passing downs, Phillips could become that run-stopping third linebacker.
It’s thought that he might be able to assume that role now, whereas the pass coverage responsibilities at the NFL level might take a while to assimilate. Like B.J. Goodson, he offers the Browns an ability to tighten up the run defense on early downs.
Alternatively, versus a team like the Ravens it might be a challenge to Lamar Jackson to beat the Browns through the air rather than on the ground. That might not be a bad challenge to offer. Likewise, though Phillips is a rookie, his reputation is as a great run defender and destructive tackler.
Because of the lack of a coherent preseason this year, he and the other rookies may not be ready to start right away. But if the Browns can open up just part of their playbook for certain situations, that could help the run defense significantly.
In long yardage, the Browns are likely to switch to a nickel or a dime with Kevin Johnson and one of several choices among defensive backs. At some point, another LSU alum, safety Grant Delpit will have a role. Delpit was thought to be a first round pick, but a high ankle sprain slowed his development last season, and the Browns were able to draft him in the second round.
For good measure, the Browns also drafted Jordan Elliott out of Missouri in the third round.
"“I consider myself a playmaker who disrupts the middle, a pocket pusher in the pass game and a disciplined run stopper.” — Cleveland Browns 3rd Round/88th overall draft pick from the SEC Missouri Tigers, Jordan Elliott, as quoted in by Jeff Schudel, JSchudel@News-Herald.com"
Elliott is another fellow who is unlikely to claim a full-time job, but could easily find himself part of a player rotation. Defensive players seem psychologically much more amenable to platoon arrangements than offensive players. They usually like to come in, blow things up, and get out. The less work they do, the happier they are. Offensive players like long sustained 20-play drives, and the linemen do not want to come out at all.
The Browns don’t need any of the rookies to be every-down players, but they would like to get them familiar with part of the playbook and used them as situational players. Phillips should be on the field during running downs, and Delpit needs to be ready in passing situations. There’s plenty of time for them to expand the playbook down the road, but it is important to become situational players sooner rather than later.
Overall, they have added both veterans and rookies who can be role players. That is, the team can start out in the 4-3-4, but quickly switch to 4-2-5 or other personnel groups if the situation warrants it. They really do not need full time, every-down players, but they do need players who can perform in situational defenses.