Dick Jauron, the Browns' new defensive coordinator, has extensively studied film from last season, but he still has questions about his players. Those questions won't be answered until the NFL's lockout ends and Jauron is able to see his team in person.
In a phone interview this morning, Jauron reviewed some of the mysteries he'll need to solve as he guides the Browns' conversion to a 4-3 defense:
- Jauron said he considers Scott Fujita, D'Qwell Jackson and Chris Gocong his starting linebackers. Earlier this offseason, Browns General Manager Tom Heckert called Fujita "an ideal Sam linebacker." Heckert said Jackson could play Will linebacker or Mike linebacker, and Gocong could play all three linebacker spots in a 4-3 scheme. Jauron, though, wouldn't commit when asked if Gocong would be his middle linebacker. "We've talked about that," Jauron said. "We've talked about him at Will. We've talked about him at Sam. We've moved the three of them around in our own minds and in our own meetings. And then after you do all that stuff for a long enough time, you come to the conclusion that we're just gonna have to wait and see how it works out when we get them here on the field."
- Jauron hopes defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and rookie Phil Taylor are versatile enough to play right and left tackle, as opposed to one-technique and three-technique. "It's still to be determined," Jauron said. "But ideally, that's what we would like to do. Then you can just slide them. But if it doesn't work out that way, we don't have issues with moving a guy. You'll see teams do it at times with certain movements on offense. They'll just get up and they'll both move and assume the three and the one once the offense has set the formation. But it's a lot better if you can slide."
- Jauron said he doesn't know if Marcus Benard, who primarily played outside linebacker in pass-rushing situations in former Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's system, can become an every-down defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. "We really like a lot of things about him, but we'll have to wait and see," Jauron said. "Obviously, he's done some really good things in the pass rush on tape. ... We'll need to get him in and work with him and see where it goes. But he's a tough guy, has skills, can contribute in a lot of areas on a football team, so we're excited about it."
- Jauron praised seventh-round pick Eric Hagg's production at Nebraska, where Hagg played a hybrid safety-linebacker position. Jauron thinks he knows what spot Hagg will fill in the NFL, but some experimenting is needed to be sure. "We're gonna put him at safety and probably strong to start with and then just let him compete and see where it goes," Jauron said. "We'll work him in the sub package, but you've got to be a little bit careful. Again, we've had no offseason time with these guys (because of the lockout). We've got to see how they embrace the package, especially the young guys, the rookies, because everything will be totally new for them. So we'll look at him first at strong safety, and then move him from there."
Here are some other highlights from the interview with Jauron (
the rest of the interview appeared in the Beacon Journal and on Ohio.com in a question-and-answer format
- On what was appealing about joining the Browns: "I'd had a relationship, obviously, with coach (Pat) Shurmur's uncle Fritz," Jauron said. "I'd played for him and I had coached with him, and so I had met coach Pat a number of times a on and off through the years. So I felt like I had a connection there. And obviously with (Browns President) Mike Holmgren, I had worked for him in Green Bay and really had great admiration for him, always had great trust in him, knew a number of people that were on the staff, (Holmgren's senior advisor) Gil Haskell being one of them. I've been lucky to be in the league as a player and a coach. I've been with a number of the old franchises. This franchise had an interuption, but it's one of the classic franchises. It has traditional rivals, and I really like that. And the fact that they haven't been as good as they would like to be, you'd always like to feel like you're a part of building something and helping it succeed."
- On his defensive assistants: "I've had a background with (senior defensive assistant) Ray (Rhodes)," Jauron said. "He was a defensive coordinator for coach Holmgren in Green Bay when we were there, so I've known Ray for a long time and just think the world of him. He's got great football knowledge. He's a great guy. He's a great team guy. That's been a tremendous addition. (Linebackers coach) Bill (Davis), I only knew by reputation and the same with (defensive line coach) Dwaine (Board), but great reputations. People that I know that have worked with them spoke so highly of both of them. They're quality guys and obviously outstanding coaches. (Defensive backs coach) Jerome (Henderson) was a holdover who's very impressive to me. I remember him as a player. I remember him when he came out of college. He had a great career. He's a very, very solid person, a tremendous guy to have on a staff, and I think he does an outstanding job with the secondary. And (defensive assistant) Chuck (Bullough) and I, I've known Chuck for a long, long time. I played for his dad (Hank) and coached for his dad. I watched Chuck play and then worked with him in Chicago. He's got football in his blood, and he's just an outstanding coach. So really coach Shurmur did a great job. I believe in hiring these guys, and I really feel comfortable with all of them."
- On his philosophy on blitzes and coverages: "Ideally, we'd like to pressure more than we cover," Jauron said. "You've got to be able to make the quarterback uncomfortable. It doesn't mean you have to pressure a certain percentage all the time, but you've got to put doubt in their mind. You've got to have a high percentage of pressure or at least a very good mix that keeps people off balance."
- On his impression of the Browns' defense from watching film: "They certainly play hard," Jauron said. "There is a nucleus of tough guys we believe that we can build on, and we're looking forward to starting that."
- On drafting cornerback Buster Skrine, pictured left, and Hagg: "I really like both of them, and obviously they're different," Jauron said. "Eric's a really smart, inside player. They play at the highest level of college football in the country at Nebraska, and he was a performer for them game in and game out. He just seemed to make plays. He played some in their sub package at their nickel or dime positions, which is interesting to us. It shows he can move around. He can handle different positions, and he did a nice job there. We're excited about seeing him. And Buster, Buster's got a number of things: He's very, very athletic, he's a tough guy and he can run. You just can't teach speed. He can really run. Again, two really good picks, we thought, that can come in and help us and I think help us right away."
- On if the left defensive end is typically more of a run stopper than a pass rusher in a 4-3 defense: "Yeah, you'd make that generalization in a 4-3, just because obviously most offenses are more right-handed than left-handed," Jauron said. "The tight end is more generally on the defense's left, so generally (the left defensive end) is a bigger, more physical player, and the right defensive end is generally a little bit smaller, maybe faster. But, ideally, you'd like them to be even obviously in terms of pass-rush ability. You'd like to get two great pass rushers off the edge anytime, and you'd like them as big as they can be with great pass-rush ability. But it's very, very hard to find."
- On if the Browns need to add depth at linebacker because of injury concerns surrounding Fujita and Jackson: "I see it that way on every team I've ever been on," Jauron said. "Linebackers and tight ends, everybody plays a physical position in a football game. But linebackers, they're involved in both ends of everything. They're huge on special teams. They've got to contribute everywhere. It's tough. They take a lot of hits over the course of a year."
- On his coaching style in terms of motivating players: "I don't need to describe my style," Jauron said. "I don't really think a whole lot about my style. I just kind of am who I am, and I coach that way."
- On if the Browns are targeting certain positions on defense that they hope to address once free agency begins: "We've talked about it, yeah," Jauron said. "We've done all our reports on the guys that we were assigned to look at. We've sat down and we've talked about those guys with Tom (Heckert), and, of course, Mike (Holmgren) is certainly aware of it, too, and coach Pat (Shurmur). We have certain people in certain areas that we target, but it's certainly not appropriate for me to talk about that."