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NFL Insider: Mangini, Rob Ryan want the Cleveland Browns' defense to have a '46' look


Plain Dealer, June 20, 2009

by Tony Grossi


CLEVELAND, Ohio -- In the 1990s, Bill Parcells once told me that Buddy Ryan was the most influential coach in football.

"His defense changed everything," Parcells said during a visit when Bill Belichick, his protege, first took over as Browns coach.


Ryan's "46" defense of the Chicago Bears bludgeoned foes in the 1980s with relentless pressure on running and passing downs. Ryan's defense might have been the most dominant the NFL has ever seen.


The 46 name came from the jersey number of hard-hitting safety Doug Plank, who lined up close to the line of scrimmage and played with the reckless abandon Ryan sought from the entire unit. Plank was the so-called eighth man in the (tackle) box. On any given down it was possible that all eight players -- four linemen, three linebackers and Plank -- would rush the passer or the ball-carrier.


The 46 is synonymous with the Ryan coaching name. And now, Rob Ryan, Eric Mangini's defensive coordinator, will try to incorporate a version of the 46 with the Browns.



It won't be the Browns' base defense, but Ryan is putting it into the overall package.


"Really, the 46 was designed as a nickel defense," Ryan said. "It wasn't really the base of my father, either. It just started stopping everything so it became a base."


Without getting too technical, the 46 attempts to confuse and swallow quarterbacks with its eight-man front. It features four down linemen, three linebackers and a safety close to the line of scrimmage. The two outside linebackers may overload the same side.


It's tough to run and pass against. But it does leave the cornerbacks vulnerable because they have only one deep safety to help. 49ers coach Bill Walsh schooled everyone on beating the 46 by spreading receivers across the field and delivering short passes.


Now every team uses forms of the spread offense, and that's why the 46 dried up. Until the Ryans -- Rob and his twin brother, Rex -- ascended as defensive coordinators, only Tennessesse's Jeff Fisher, who played for Buddy Ryan, used it on occasion.


But when Ryan and Mangini spent time "masterminding" schemes for Belichick in New England at the start of this decade, Mangini forced Ryan to show him videotapes of the Bears 46. Mangini wanted to learn everything about the devious scheme.


"Eric is a huge fan of the 46," Ryan said. "In New England, you'd be tired after working two-a-days and you're ready to go to bed and he would be like, 'No, put those tapes on for an hour and let's watch it.' He is the one who eventually got it into New England.


"We had so much success with it there. It's something that is definitely going to be a part of this package."


Ryan promises he will oversee "an attacking defense, an exciting defense, and we are going to play great football."


With Rob and Rex embarking on new phases of their careers -- Rex succeeded Mangini as Jets head coach -- this could be the year the 46 makes a comeback. After all, the twin brothers are 46 years old this year, at least until Dec. 13.


More Ryan: Rob said his father expects to visit the Browns for the start of training camp. Buddy Ryan, who had a record of 55-58-1 as head coach of the Eagles and Cardinals, is enjoying retirement in Kentucky. He is 75. ... Rob Ryan heaped effusive praise on Mangini. "He is so relentless that he makes you win," he said. "I think he had probably more to do with us having success in New England than probably anybody except Tom Brady. I mean, I'll give him his due. But really, he is that good of a coach." Belichick surely will clip and save that one. The Browns won't play the Patriots until 2010 -- unless they meet this season in a playoff game.

Brownie bits: The Browns have not yet finalized their training camp schedule. So far they are confirming only that the first team practice open to fans will be Aug. 1 and their traditional Family Day team scrimmage at Cleveland Browns Stadium will be Aug. 9. ... Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar will return as analyst on Browns preseason games on WKYC Channel 3. ... Former Browns receiver and Cleveland native Steve Sanders was picked by New York in the inaugural United Football League draft this week.


Quick outs: Belichick canceled his team's final minicamp practice last week. That was a tipoff that Mangini would follow suit, and he sure did. ... Nobody is expecting the Bengals to be better except the Bengals. Perhaps because he's healthy again, quarterback Carson Palmer is bubbling with optimism. "In my seven years here, this has been as good as it's been," he said at the team's minicamp this week. ... If Denver receiver Brandon Marshall ends up in Baltimore, the Ravens would join Pittsburgh, New England, Indianapolis and San Diego in the upper tier of the AFC. ... Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shot 81 at Bethpage Black, site of the U.S. Open, in the made-for-TV U.S. Open Challenge. Michael Jordan, playing in the same group, shot 86. ... Other notables drafted by the UFL: Canton native and former Ohio State star Mike Doss (Orlando), former Browns tight end Keith Heinrich (Orlando), Ohio State linebacker Anthony Schlegel (Orlando). The four-team league plans to play on Thursday and Friday evenings this fall.


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There are two things that I'm looking for in this years squad... 1st and foremost is tackeling...How many times we've seen the defense get to the ball carrier then try to bring him down with a body block only to have the runner bounce off and gain an additional 5 - 10 yards... We must lead the league in missed tackels, enough is enough...


Second, I want to see an agressive MEAN defense... I'm sick and tired of seeing the opposing QB having unlimited time to pick out a receiver then deliver the ball for a substantial gain... Our pass rush has been non exhistant and when we blitz its so predictable and slow...


Hopefully Ryan can transform this defense into a unit that has offensive coordinators confused and over reacting..... An in-your-face defense would be a welcomed addition to the long suffering fans of Cleveland....





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i'm skeptical with THESE corners. If u leave Eric Wright on a #1 reciever with no safety help, that reciever probably is catching the ball and going all the way with it.


If he has the time to take a 5 or 7 step drop and let the receiver develop his route. That's the beauty of the46. The Safety is the additional guy in the box and he can always drop back into coverage. Actually when the Giants beat NE for the super bowl they used a lot of the 46 as a base defense. Of course, they had a little better personnel then we are working with here. You have to have physical corners who can hold up a receiver at the line and LBs who will not let the TE get into his route. You always have 4 DBs in the game, it's just that they don't line up conventionally.


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For that matter, you could have 5 dbs in the game at all times if you wanted. A quick corner rushing off the edge is a better pass rush option then a LB up the middle in many cases.


No matter how we do it, it at least sounds like we aren't going to be this passive, bend but don't break(cough,cough) defense.


I like it. Create a mess in the backfield, force some turn overs. If that means giving up some quick scores, so be it. A slow bleed isn't any better. It still puts you behind and uses up the clock limiting the number of offensive chances you get.


Jam the line, stuff the run and create pressure on passing downs.


Intense pressure on passing plays creates sacks and inaccurate passes. We aren't going to get torched that often.

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Guest Aloysius

It sounds like our young starting corners are adjusting well to the new regime:


The way we hear it, three Browns defenders were especially impressive in offseason workouts: ILB D’Qwell Jackson and CBs Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright. Jackson is established, one of the better players at his position in the NFL, but McDonald and Wright are coming off 2008 seasons in which they struggled at times, so their progress has to be regarded as a positive.
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It sounds like our young starting corners are adjusting well to the new regime:


All the talk about QB, rb, o-line etc, the corners have the biggest chance of turning our season around. As long as we can stockpile some depth and our starters keep improving the team will get started back on track. The fact that we waited until the 6th round for pick-ups says that Mangini feels we'll be alright. At least i hope thats what it means.

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As Rob Ryan has stated, the 46 is a Nickel defense, and will not be a staple. Good thing because we don't have the horses to run it right. We'll see how well we do stopping the run in our basic packages, because the 46 was completely ripped apart by the 49ers and Bill Walsh. Spread the field and quick-hitters. So yeah, as a package 4-5 times a game sure. But more than that we're screwed. And not every game, because when people recognize it, a big play is coming.

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