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Horton: Browns want to better utilize defensive stars

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One of the cyclical aspects of being a Browns fan that makes tolerating the losses easier is the constant injection of hope from a new coaching staff -- mostly because a new staff is hired every year or two.

This time of year, hope springs eternal and we get comments like these from new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who is also the team's old defensive coordinator:

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"I don't want him to always have to come off the field," Horton said about 2015 first-round pick Danny Shelton, who was constantly rotating out of the defense last year. "I want him to be able to stay on the field as much as we want him on the field. I just talked to him. I met him. I said, 'I'm looking forward to working with you on April 4.' He's going to be a big part of our plans. Obviously, he was our No. 1 draft pick last year, and we want to utilize his talent."

What about Paul Kruger, the rush linebacker who had a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2014 but only 2.5 last year?

"He's one of our elite players who has to play better for us," Horton said. "We will give him every opportunity to like the defense, to rush. He is going to rush so I want him to stay in and rush. He won't be going out. I want him to stay in and rush. He will get his opportunities."

Oh, and what about Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 overall pick in 2013 when Horton was last in Cleveland?

"Now, what do we have on the table for him? Some things different than it's been in the past. Hopefully, he will come in and say, 'I embrace what you are trying to do with me, and I'll do whatever you ask me to do.' We have to do something to utilize his God-given ability."

So this time around, the under-utilized rookie will be utilized. The top-10 pick who never reached his potential will be used in a way that could finally bring it out. And the once-great pass rusher can be great again.

The funny thing about it all is that it seems oddly possible with this regime. For the first time in years Cleveland has the hot coaching candidate and some forward momentum. Or is that just wishful thinking too?

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