By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Browns’ first significant move in free agency happened on the defensive side of the ball.
I know, I know. The past weeks and months have been dominated by talk of finding help for an anemic offense, and fans are clamoring for that dynamic player at quarterback or wide receiver (preferably both) to help crank up the scoring.
This is not to suggest that the need for offensive help has, in any way, become secondary. It hasn’t, and I remain convinced it will be satisfactorily addressed, most likely in the draft.
But the signing of defensive end Frostee Rucker, while not as sexy as landing a passer or a catcher, makes perfect sense on multiple counts.
No. 1, until further notice, defense is the Browns’ strength. Defense is what did the most to put the team in position to win the four games it won and the few others it should have won. Anything that makes that defense stronger is the quickest way to help make the Browns better. And, by definition, free agency is supposed to be something of a “quick fix,” through the addition of an instant-impact player at a position of need.
Which leads us to No. 2. The Browns had a clear need for a defensive end. They had only one consistently effective pass-rushing force last year in rookie Jabaal Sheard. That doesn’t cut it in the pass-happy NFL. Rucker gives them a second legitimate outside threat on their front four. He will make his share of plays behind the line of scrimmage, but perhaps more importantly, his presence (in addition to that of tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor) should do plenty to help Sheard continue on the path of a rising star. As Rucker said during a conference call with the media on Thursday: “I’m adding to an already productive group. Across the board, what we’ve got going, the sky’s the limit for that group.”
No. 3, Rucker has spent the past six seasons in the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals. He has a thorough understanding of the blocking he will face in six games this year. He knows, in general, what he and the Browns are up against in what is arguably the NFL’s toughest division. That’s going to be extremely helpful, especially to his many younger teammates in the Browns’ locker room.
And last, by certainly not least, Rucker wants to be here. He called signing with the Browns “pretty much a no-brainer.” He talked about being impressed with the coaching staff and “the goals they’re trying to reach … it was just a no-brainer wanting be a part of something on the rise.”
A refreshing perspective, to say the least. And exactly what the Browns needed to get the process of adding new players off to a strong start.
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By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com
It is nearly impossible to separate Ozzie Newsome and Clay Matthews.
Let’s start with the fact the two former Browns greats were born only a day apart in March 1956, Matthews on the 15th in Palo Alto, Calif., and Newsome on the 16th in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Then they were both selected by the Browns in the first round of the 1978 NFL Draft, Matthews at No. 12 overall out of USC and Newsome at No. 23 out of Alabama. It turned out to be one of the best drafts in Browns history.
They were starters from the moment they arrived in Cleveland and remained so throughout long careers with the Browns, Newsome at tight end after being converted from wide receiver, where he played with the Crimson Tide, and Matthews at outside linebacker.
Both were among the best players the Browns have ever had.
Newsome, who played 13 years, through 1990, made the Pro Bowl three times, is the team’s career leader in receptions – by a wide margin — with 662, is tied for the club record with 89 receptions in a season (done twice) and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999, the same weekend the expansion Browns made their debut by playing in the annual Hall of Fame Game.
He retired at the end of the 1990 season, and went into scouting and personnel work with the Browns.
Matthews was chosen for the Pro Bowl four times in a Cleveland career that lasted 1993. His 16 consecutive seasons played are a club record, and rank second for overall seasons played. He is also tops the Browns with 232 games played.
In addition, he is the club’s all-time leader in sacks with 76.5 and sack yardage (568), and his 12 sacks in 1984 are tied for fifth-most in Browns history.
Following his time with the Browns, Matthews played three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, retiring after the 1996 season.
Matthews has long been mentioned as a Hall of Fame candidate, and in voting for the class of 2012, he made the list of 26 semifinalists for the first time. His brother, Bruce, a former offensive lineman for the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers, is already in the Hall. His father, Clay Matthews, was a lineman for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950s, and his two sons, Clay III (Green Bay Packers) and Casey (Philadelphia Eagles), currently play linebacker in the NFL.
Also on these two mid-March dates in Browns history:
*16 – In 1953, HOF middle guard Bill Willis retired from the Browns to become assistant commissioner of the Cleveland Recreation Department. From Columbus (Ohio) East High School, he played on Ohio State’s first national championship team in 1942. His coach with the Buckeyes, Paul Brown, also served as the first coach of the Browns, and Willis ended up playing for him from the team’s inception in 1946.
*15 – In 1969, Louis Riddick was born in Quakertown, Pa. A Pitt product, the safety was drafted in the ninth round in 1991 by the San Francisco 49ers but never played with them. He started his career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1992 and then spent from 1993-95 with the Browns. He finished his career by going back to the Falcons for the 1996 season and to the Oakland Raiders for ’98.
Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History. If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays. Call to learn more.
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