BEREA, Ohio — There’s a very notable Browns training camp battle this season that’s shrouded in mystery.
The Alpha Dog — or perhaps more aptly named Alpha Dawg — competition is something the Cleveland defense is participating in as the season creeps closer.
What we know:
- It consists of four teams.
- Those teams were chosen by a “cabinet,” according to defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
- It’s designed to help the Browns’ defense improve on some struggles from 2021, including creating takeaways.
But with some good-natured intrigue, the Browns are keeping the rest a secret.
At least they are trying to.
The world would still be completely in the dark about the battle, if not for an almost throwaway line courtesy of safety John Johnson III, who took a question about the Browns improving on takeaways and gave reporters a little extra — unsurprising considering he did earn multiple votes for the media’s annual “Good Guy Award” last season and is always a great interview.
“We have a competition going on with the whole defense, it’s called the Alpha Dogs,” Johnson said on Thursday. “It’s not just takeaways, it’s attacking the ball. We want to keep attacking the ball, good things are going to happen. That was like the first thing that we mentioned when we got back for training camp. We saw the numbers, but we said takeaways is what’s most important.”
The answer came much to Woods’ chagrin when he faced reporters 24 hours later.
But like Johnson, Woods let a few more details about the competition slip out.
“That is a secret!” he said with a laugh. “I will not get into all of the details, but basically we try to make our practices like games. We try to churn all of the information and then we keep track of the guys leading each category and teams leading each category and then there may be a reward at the end.”
While the categories may not be known, we can make some educated guesses.
Based on Johnson’s answer, takeaways are probably one aspect of the competition. The Browns were middle-of-the-pack with those last season, forcing only 19 total, typing them for 21st in the league.
The Browns also really do value quarterback pressures, something that Kevin Stefanski brought up earlier this week when talking about the impact Myles Garrett has on games and how it’s about more than just sack numbers.
Woods has also talked plenty about improving on situational football, most notably third-down conversions and red zone conversions. Last year, opposing teams converted 39.3% of their third-down attempts against the Browns (19th in the league) and converted 34-of-52 red zone attempts into touchdowns (65.4%).
And as the Browns remain in the ramp-up stages of training camp leading up to full pads on Tuesday, that’s about all we can guess for now in terms of the competition. There may be more to glean as time goes on.
“You’re gonna see,” Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah said. “As camp goes on, you’ll know more about it. But yes, it’s this Alpha Dawg thing we do. We’ll see who comes out with it. That’s all I can give.”
It’s understandable why the Browns want to keep this in-house, their own special competition and prize that the rest of the world isn’t privy to.
Training camp days are long, oftentimes 11-plus hours for players. What better way to keep players focused and engaged despite the heat wave, endless meetings and endless drills?
Cleveland Brown training camp day 3, July 29, 2022
The Browns enjoy not only the drills and the competition aspect of Alpha Dog, but keeping it a secret, too.
“I am going to be secretive as well because I do not want to get fined by those guys.” Stefanski quipped. “I think what you are trying to do is training camp is long and it is competitive, but you are always looking for ways to motivate the guys on a day-to-day basis. Each position group does it in their own way, and certainly, Joe with the unit is taking it to a unique place.”
Owusu-Koramoah gave a more poetic explanation.
“You’ve got to find something that allows you to propel yourself,” he said. “It’s about motivation, innovation, elevation, evolutions. It’s about always going towards a direction to where you can better people, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve found something that everybody enjoys. You know, we’ve got multiple different tools that we use to keep guys engaged.”
Even though much may not be known now, we’ll likely get there. Eventually guys won’t be able to resist talking, especially when it comes down to who gets the Alpha Dog prize at the end.
The gloating feels almost inevitable.
“Coach Woods hasn’t gone over it with us yet, but there’s a prize for sure,” Johnson said. “We have four teams and I think my team is going to win.”
May the best Alpha Dawg win.
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