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New Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron wants aggressive 4-3 scheme


Dick Jauron has a history degree from Yale, but an Ivy League education isn't needed to understand his defensive philosophy.

"It is really simple: I want to be a very aggressive defense," Jauron, the Browns defensive coordinator, said recently in a phone interview with The Chronicle, one of his first since getting the job in January. "You want to feel like you're attacking. You don't want to feel like you're reacting all the time.

"You have to be multiple enough to keep offenses guessing and unpredictable enough to keep them off-balance. But you have to be simple enough to feel comfortable and be able to get repetitions."

Aggressive usually translates to one thing on defense: blitzing. How often are you getting after the quarterback, and with how many guys?

"A third is a good target. Sometimes more, sometimes less," Jauron said. "You want to keep 'em on their heels as much as you can."

The .33 blitz percentage applies to any time the defense rushes more than the four defensive linemen.

"You're adding somebody or more than somebody," Jauron said. "There are a number of different kinds of pressures."

Jauron has seen every blitz imaginable during his time in the NFL. He played safety in the league for nine years, totaling 26 interceptions, and was chosen for the Pro Bowl in 1974 as a punt returner. He's been coaching for 26 years, including nine as a head coach.

He spent 2010 as Philadelphia's senior assistant/defensive backs coach after four years as the head coach in Buffalo. He was in demand after last season but chose to work for coach Pat Shurmur and president Mike Holmgren.

"It wasn't difficult," Jauron said. "It wasn't like I didn't know anybody here."

Jauron coached on Holmgren's staff in Green Bay, along with Fritz Shurmur, Pat's uncle. Shurmur also played for Fritz.

"I knew they were people I could really trust and liked being around," Jauron said. "I like the feeling of being around good people in sports.

"I also like the history here. I felt somewhat connected to Paul Brown, Forrest Gregg, Dick Modzelewski. It's an interesting deal, always has been for me."

As the NFL lockout is set to enter its fourth month, much of the angst among Browns fans is how Shurmur - also the offensive coordinator - will be able to install his West Coast offense in time. Often taken for granted is the defense's conversion from the 3-4 system of Eric Mangini and Rob Ryan to Jauron's 4-3.

"It's a good-sized switch," Jauron said. "Against the run game it's different. Personnel-wise and pressure-wise it's different. There are big differences."

The biggest change is upfront. Not only is there an additional lineman, the body types, techniques and responsibilities must be adjusted.

Jauron's linemen won't have as much two-gap responsibility, meaning they won't be asked to line up directly over an offensive lineman and stop the run to either of his shoulders. The difference will be evident in the size of the ends. Last year's starters, Robaire Smith and Kenyon Coleman, were 6-foot-5, 310 pounds and 6-5, 295. Jabaal Sheard, a second-round draft choice out of Pitt, is 6-3, 254.

"Personnel may always be the hardest thing, no matter what," Jauron said of the switch to the 4-3. "You gotta have guys who can make plays. If you have talented players who want to play and are the right kind of guys, then you have the chance to be a team.

"I think scheme and coaching are real important, but you gotta have the players."

With free agency a casualty of the lockout so far, the Browns' first chance to address the roster came in the April draft. They didn't waste any time targeting the front four.

After trading from No. 6 to 27, the Browns traded up to No. 21 to assure they'd get Phil Taylor, a 6-3, 337-pound tackle from Baylor. Sheard was the pick at No. 37. A tackle and an end expected to step right in and join incumbent tackle Ahtyba Rubin in the starting lineup.

Jauron said taking the tackle first was a byproduct of the team's draft rankings.

"We wanted it to be that way - inside first - because we had particular guys targeted," he said. "We felt we had strong needs everywhere. Luckily it worked out the way it did. They were two players we really liked.

"They play hard, and in our division we've got to have guys who can stand in there against the run, fight you every down and hold up. It's a tough division."

From general manager Tom Heckert to Jauron to every yahoo doing a mock draft, it was obvious the Browns would address the line at some point. Rubin was the only returnee guaranteed a starting spot.

"People do say a lot starts upfront, and there's truth in that," Jauron said. "If you can't stop the run, it's not going to matter if you can defend the pass, because they're not going to throw it.

"If you can get pressure with four, you've got a chance to be a really good team. You need those guys upfront."

Thanks to the lockout, Jauron has yet to coach any of his players, and hasn't even met some. Linebacker Scott Fujita received coaching materials during the two-day window when the lockout was paused, but that's not the same as Jauron and his staff installing the 4-3 during minicamps and organized team activities.

"It's not the best. That's for certain," he said of the lockout. "None of us have been through this, this is a new one. Hopefully it gets done quickly."

Jauron inherited a defense that ranked 22nd overall, 27th against the run and 18th against the pass. He's watched plenty of film on his new pupils, including cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward, who are entering their second season.

"They're tough guys," Jauron said. "Clearly, in any game of football, that's where it starts. The people we drafted fit that mold, too. They play like they want to play.

"The Browns were clearly a team that played hard. There was never an issue with their effort. That's a great thing, it shows character."

The overhaul of the line started in the draft. Linebacker is a different situation. Veterans Fujita, Chris Gocong and D'Qwell Jackson are penciled in as the starters.

"If they can stay healthy and on the field, we look OK," Jauron said.

Jackson is the biggest "if." He missed the last 26 games with two torn pectoral muscles, and hardly anybody in the front office or on the coaching staff was in Cleveland the last time he played.

"I feel like we know him," Jauron said. "He's a good player. We've just got to keep him on the field."

The selections of Haden and Ward in the first two rounds in 2010 began the transformation of the secondary. Veteran Sheldon Brown, restricted free agent Eric Wright and rookie fifth-round pick Buster Skrine provide some depth at cornerback, but finding a free safety to play opposite Ward is one of the team's top priorities in free agency.

"We would love to add a safety," Jauron said. "Anywhere we can upgrade any position at the right cost, we would keep doing it."

Jauron is in good shape and clean-shaven. He speaks in measured tones and thinks before he answers a question. He just might be the anti-Rob Ryan, the outgoing defensive coordinator.

"It's probably an adjustment for the players," he said. "It's always an adjustment when there's a change. It's just another one they'll make."

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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