BEREA: New Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton might need to interact with his players and watch them in person to fully understand how some of them will fit into his 3-4 multifront system.
That won’t happen until the offseason training program begins in April, but Horton still shared his thoughts on several players Tuesday during his introductory news conference.
• On whether defensive end Jabaal Sheard can play 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. … He may be a strong safety some time, he can be a linebacker, he can be a [defensive] end. I want him to tell me what he can do best and not put a label on what he is.”
• On defensive lineman Billy Winn: “He came up with a fantastic interception where he was rushing, the ball was tipped and he came back and made a great diving catch and that goes back to my point of what these big men can do. They can all run and they’re athletic, and so it just gives us the ability to move guys around. … Maybe Billy’s inside, maybe Billy’s outside, maybe he’s dropping because he’s so athletic.”
• On cornerback Joe Haden: “Good hands, good feet, takes good keys, can play the ball and he’ll tackle. So he fits into my little men that can hit, and he can catch the ball. He can play the ball.”
• On strong safety T.J. Ward: “What I see in T.J. is a player who is dynamic in the run game, a player that’s going to get better because he’s a smart player that will hit. … I’m excited for a chance to coach him and grow with him and understand what he does best.”
Before spending the past two years as the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, Horton coached defensive backs for the Pittsburgh Steelers for seven seasons. Horton said longtime Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has had a major influence on his career.
“He treats every single person like they’re the most important person in the room,” Horton said. “... Players love playing for coach LeBeau, and I think that’s the highest form of respect that you can get.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Horton not only relates well to players, but he also has outstanding blitz packages. LeBeau is known for his zone blitzes.
“I bring a lot,” said Horton, who played defensive back in the NFL for 10 seasons. “I bring little guys. The corners, they blitz. I bring big guys. I drop big guys into coverage.”
Chudzinski said linebacker Chris Gocong, who suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon last summer, should be able to return for the start of the 2013 season.
“He’s on track with his rehab,” Chudzinski said. “He’s started running and doing some things. As far as a timetable as to when he’s going to be ready, it’s still a little premature for that, but everything is on target.”
The Browns hired former Detroit Lions assistant secondary coach Daron Roberts as their defensive quality control coach and former Carolina Panthers defensive assistant Bobby Babich as their assistant defensive backs coach. They also retained special-teams assistant Shawn Mennenga. … Chudzinski said quarterback Colt McCoy visited the team’s headquarters Monday in Berea to meet him in person. Chudzinski said he has also spoken to quarterback Brandon Weeden and McCoy on the phone. … Offensive lineman Dominic Alford tweeted that he has rejoined the Browns after being waived by them Aug. 31 and signing with the Carolina Panthers.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.