BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns are going to have a different look to their linebacker corps after releasing veteran interior defender Karlos Dansby during the offseason and letting Craig Robertson sign with the New Orleans Saints in the free-agency period.
But to counteract the losses of Dansby and Robertson, the Browns signed veteran Demario Davis and drafted another inside linebacker, Scooby Wright III, out of the University of Arizona.
“I’m curious about the entire linebacker group,” Davis said. “We’ve got a wonderful staff. They push us. They challenge us. We have intense meetings and just try to carry it over to the field. We’ve got a great group of guys on the outside and the inside. I’m trying to get better every day.”
And in Davis’ opinion, those challenges are a direct result of the way head coach Hue Jackson wants to run his team.
“His intensity and his drive for success, it’s contagious,” Davis said. “You can just see it around the building and in the community. There’s a great feeling around here. That’s what you have got to have. He’s raising our expectations, raising the standard. When you have that, you have a chance.”
A starter in all 16 games for the New York Jets in each of the last three seasons, Davis had his best NFL year in 2014, when he registered 116 total tackles, 79 solo stops, 3.5 sacks and five passes defended, all of which were single-season career highs for the Collins, Mississippi, native and former Arkansas State standout.
In 64 career games with the Jets, who selected him in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Davis registered 349 total tackles, including 230 solo stops and 119 assists to go along with 6.5 quarterback sacks.
And he expects to put that experience to good use in terms of leading the defense.
“I think the leadership role as a middle linebacker is always natural,” Davis said. “It’s by position, but you just talk about leaders in the locker room, leaders on defense. You have got three Pro Bowl guys: Paul Kruger, Joe Haden, Tramon Williams, guys who have won Super Bowls. I am always trying to defer to their experience, their guidance.
“As far as structure, keeping everything together, it’s always going to be on the middle linebacker. It’s just like getting everybody lined up. It’s his job, his responsibility. I have to embrace that role, but we have got a lot of guys, and it’s going to take 11 guys with like minds, alpha-male mentality to put together a piece of the defense. That’s our goal.”
Davis was the Browns’ third signing of the new league year, and he very much looks forward to playing in a defense run by well-respected coordinator Ray Horton.
Under Horton’s direction, the 2013 Browns registered 40 sacks for 185 lost yards and held opposing passers to just 3,723 yards, the lowest total they have allowed in any of the last four seasons, and their 1,781 rushing yards surrendered are the fewest in the expansion era. The last time the Browns allowed less than 1,800 rushing yards in a single season was in 1994, when they went 11-5 and advanced to the second round of the AFC playoffs.
However, Horton takes over a defense that surrendered 6,067 total yards, including 2,055 on the ground and another 4,012 through the air, 49 touchdowns and forced only 11 interceptions in 2015 after collecting 21 during the 2014 season.
“It’s 11 guys, that’s what it takes, 11 guys,” Davis said. “You have got to have great coverage on the back end. You have got to have great pressure up front from all seven guys -- inside backers, outside backers, D-line. You have to have it all. It take’s 11. It starts really with getting good pass rushing. You have got to be able to stop the run because that’s what makes them pass. It takes 11 guys and it is collective.”