BEREA, Ohio — One inarguable point was made during Ray Horton’s first news conference as the Browns defensive coordinator: He knows what he wants.
“Give me big men who can run and little men who can hit,” Horton said Tuesday morning.
Over and over Horton repeated it.
Perhaps a half dozen times.
“You give me (those) two things, we’ll be a good defense,” Horton said.
“I use multiple front, coach Rob (Chudzinski) uses hybrid,” Horton added. “It’’s the same term. Different semantics of language. We are going to be a defense that gives offenses problems.”
Horton said his defense will be aggressive and attacking. And it will be multi-front … three-four, four-three, five-two, four-four, eleven-zero (OK, not the last one).
Horton also did some serious backtracking on his radio claim that the Browns and Steelers defenses would be mirror images.
On Tuesday, Horton said it would be a mirror image of what “coach Rob” wants.
The Browns clearly seemed to have their message down. The 3-4 Horton discussed is a multi-front/multi-coverage/hybrid. It doesn’t matter how guys line up but what the defense looks like. And it will have (ready for it) big men who can run and little men who can hit.
“We are a multi-front attacking defense, and that’s the most important thing,” Horton said
Big men. Little men.
Horton tried to downplay over and over the transition from a defense built for the four-three to his system, which no matter how many different ways he says it will be a three-four base. A guy like Jabaal Sheard might find himself a man without a country, too small to play two-gap at end in the three-man front, unable to drop into coverage as an outside linebacker. A guy like Billy Winn might find himself dropping into coverage because of his athletic ability.
Horton said it’s simply a matter of finding the right spot for each player.
“I want him to tell me what he can do best,” Horton said of Sheard, “and not put a label on what it is.”
That theme was constant. Chudzinski admitted there will be an adjustment, but added; “If you’re a good football player, you’re a good football player.”
“All I’m asking my players to do is trust as a coaching staff that we’ll put them in great positions,” Horton said.
Transitions from system to system have been minimized with the Browns endlessly since 1999 — they’ve usually turned out more complex than originally thought. So expect an adjustment.
But the influence is clear. Horton spent seven years coaching defensive backs under Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh, and LeBeau is the genius behind the zone-blitz scheme that gives teams such problems.
Horton said Lebeau had a great influence on him, mainly on the way he treated people.
“He treats every single person like they’re the most important person in the room,” Horton added.
He also had an influence in scheme, as Horton ran a system similar to LeBeau’s in Arizona, and Horton said when the two teams play the defenses will be exactly the same.
LeBeau has had the advantage of working with Troy Polamalu and James Harrison and other top players who are made for the 3-4. Horton hasn’t. his Cardinals defense ranked 17th in points allowed last season, 28th in run defense.
One edge he will have is that players will love Horton because of his enthusiasm and approach. Players enjoy being aggresssive, and Horton said he’ll blitz anyone from anywhere and drop anyone into coverage from anywhere. He sees the players on defensive line as versatile enough to play different spots, and says he’ll coach the linebackers he has.
“I love this team,” Horton said. “I love the way it’s constituted.”
He will try to decipher what the offense he is facing does best, and try to take that away.
“It’s limitless on what you can do with players who can run and hit,” he said.