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Browns defenders learning new system, positions

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BEREA, Ohio -- Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson is on his fourth head coach with the Cleveland Browns, so naturally he's seen as many defensive coordinators and systems come and go.

Now in their second week of OTAs, the Browns are getting a crash course in the 3-4 scheme defensive coordinator Ray Horton is so passionate about. Not only are they converting from the 4-3 coached by Dick Jauron in 2011 and 2012, they are also moving from a defense that rarely blitzed to one that might be the equivalent of riding a motorcycle without a helmet.

"Ray Horton is so smart in what he does -- he thinks outside the box," Jackson said. "He doesn't have a blueprint. He likes to mix it up a little bit. It's going to be harder for offenses to game plan for us."

Jauron and Horton were both NFL defensive backs. Jauron played from 1973-80 and Horton played from 1983-92. Coincidentally, both spent time with the Bengals.

Jackson said Jauron and Horton are respected because of their NFL background, yet they have completely different philosophies.

"They're totally different," Jackson said. "Dick was a cerebral guy. He was so calm. I love everything about Dick. I see him all the time where we live, so we speak all the time.

"Dick Jauron didn't rely on pressuring the quarterback. He wanted to let the offense make a mistake. Ray Horton wants to get after people. He's aggressive."

There is more to learn in Horton's defense, Jackson said. Horton has put players at multiple positions in OTAs to see where they fit best. Jabaal Sheard is moving from end to outside linebacker, but he isn't the only one. Johnson Bademosi is shifting from cornerback to safety and Ahtyba Rubin is going from defensive tackle to end.

"It's a totally different defense so there is a lot of adjustments -- terminology, drops, the way I call games, the way I ask them to learn the defense," Horton said. "Right now I'm just asking them to trust me and trust the defense and they are doing that. We're pleased with where we are in OTAs."

The front office poured money into free agency and high draft picks to improve the defense. The Browns top two free-agent pickups were linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive end Desmond Bryant. They picked five players in the draft and didn't take an offensive player until they drafted Chadron State OL Garrett Gilkey with the 227th pick. Nobody is happier about that strategy than Horton.

"I am very pleased with how Mr. (Joe) Banner, Mr. (Jimmy) Haslam and coach (Rob) Chud (Chudzinski) have stockpiled the defense," Horton said. "We have got a lot of talent and we're going to try to figure out who fits where it's best for the Cleveland Browns to play very good defense.

"Everywhere I go, I hear about the Dawg Pound. I meet people and they say they are in the Dawg Pound third row or this or that and they are excited. We are excited to put a good product on the field that the Cleveland fans will love and be excited about."

The Browns ranked 23rd defensively last year. They gave up 27 passing touchdowns and 14 rushing touchdowns.

Running back Trent Richardson missed practice Thursday with a lower leg muscle pull near his shin. Tight end Jordan Cameron was also out with a groin injury.

Though the new administration is going in a different direction, it ran a reverse by re-signing running back Brandon Jackson. He was a forgotten man in the team's offense last year. He was signed as a free agent in March 2011 and missed the season with a toe injury.

Jackson was on the roster all 16 games last year, but didn't record a carry until the final week, when he collected 54 yards on eight carries in a 24-10 loss to the Steelers. He caught two passes against the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener and was inactive in 13 of the next 14 games.

Jackson has started 16 career games, all with the Packers, and has rushed for 1,383 yards on 355 carries with seven touchdowns. He has also caught 112 passes for 864 yards and two touchdowns.

He set career highs in rushing attempts (190), rushing yards (703), rushing touchdowns (3), receptions (43) and receiving yards (844) in 2010 in helping the Packers in their Super Bowl winning season of 2010 before signing with the Browns the next winter.

The team also announced the signing of wide receiver Tori Gurley and waived quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.

Originally signed by Green Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2011, Gurley spent that season on the practice squad. He moved around in 2012, logging time on the practice squad with the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens Jan. 1, 2013, but was waived May 13.
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