Notebook: Versatility key for Browns defensive end Winn

The former Boise State player is making his presence felt on a rebuilding Cleveland team.

AKRON BEACON JOURNALJune 19, 2014 

Former Boise State defensive end Billy Winn, right, jokes with rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel after an offseason practice for the Cleveland Browns.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEREA, Ohio - Since joining the Browns, Billy Winn has been an unexpected luxury.

After all, there aren't many sixth-round draft choices who get to make an impact on any team in any significant way in the NFL.

But Winn, a 6-foot-4, 300-pounder, made an impression in his first two seasons with the Browns, be it getting some pressure on the quarterback or having a nose for the ball.

That impact doesn't always show in stats, but it's there nonetheless.

But with three coaches in three seasons, Winn would be wise to think that he's under the microscope again.

Film, size and attitude probably say otherwise, and Winn doesn't seem to be worried.

"I don't think it's changed at all," he said last week during minicamp when asked about his role in a new defensive scheme. "The coaches here kept me for a reason. They see my versatility and they see what I'm able to do on the field, so I don't think a whole lot has changed and I was brought to Cleveland for a reason. That's to play football."

Winn has played on the interior of the defensive line. He can play outside because he has enough speed and explosiveness to make plays. That's the type of flexibility the coaches see. It's an impressive trait given his size.

"I'm really comfortable with where he's at size-wise right now," said defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil. "He shows the ability to get off the ball and knock people back and he's also really good moving laterally when we stunt the line."

That being said, Winn will likely see more time at the defensive end spot this season. With the number of defensive linemen in play, there's little doubt that competition - a word that's gotten a workout of its own throughout the team's assorted offseason activities - will be significant. The Browns have 10 defensive linemen.

"There's a lot of competition at a lot of spots out there," Winn said. "I don't necessarily want to say that there is or isn't, but right now we're out there competing against one another just for stats, for appreciation stats."

The coaching staff set up a point system to help players get a sense of where they stood during minicamp.

But it also served another purpose, an effort to eliminate the problem the defense had closing out games last season.

The motive is simple: finish what you start.

"That's one thing we're focusing on this year - just finishing," Winn said. "You see us out there just flying to the ball every play."

From that standpoint, the defense is somewhat comparable in principle to the one the Browns ran last year, Winn said.

"They're pretty similar from an attacking standpoint," he said. "We still have a whole lot to learn and we're just going out here every day trying to figure out what we need to figure out to be successful."

However, this year's coaching staff fosters a different environment meant to aid in winning.

"There's just a different type of chemistry in the locker room. There's a certain bond in the locker room with guys," Winn said. "I just kind of like to sit back and observe when you've got guys who are not normally saying much to each other, they're sitting next to one another holding a conversation. I've seen a huge change with this coaching staff and what they've done to help this team to move along."

In other words, communication might prove to be a key in helping the Browns improve.

"It helps in the long run to win games and just in your everyday life," Winn said.

LAWRENCE SIGNS WITH COWBOYS

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas' second-round draft pick and the last of the selections to agree to terms, signed a four-year, $5.5 million deal Wednesday with $3.9 million guaranteed and a $2.3 million signing bonus.

The Cowboys traded up to get him with the 34th pick.

Dallas is trying to replace franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware, who was released in March. Lawrence has been working at Ware's old position at right defensive end, the most important pass-rushing spot.

Lawrence had 20 sacks in two seasons at Boise State.

TAYLOR LOOKS TO IMPRESS DOLPHINS

Miami cornerback Jamar Taylor had a frustrating time as a rookie last season after a painful groin injury prevented him from being able to play at his best.

Now healthy, Taylor has his sights set on earning a starting spot opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes.

The former Boise State standout, taken in the second round of the 2013 draft, continued to get the bulk of the snaps with the first-team defense Wednesday with veteran free agent Cortland Finnegan sitting out again. Taylor looked sharp covering starting receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline.

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound defensive back lined up in Finnegan's spot for the second straight day and ran stride for stride with Hartline on one route. His pass breakup came against the much taller Stephen Williams (6-5, 208), as he got inside position and reached the ball at its highest point to knock it down.

— Statesman wire services contributed to this report

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