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Greco One Of Many Browns To Wrestle Playing Time In 2013

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Billy Winn was one of four unheralded Browns who took advantage of opportunities created by injuries to seize playing time in 2013. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.
Billy Winn was one of four unheralded Browns who took advantage of opportunities created by injuries to seize playing time in 2013. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

Before last season started, DT Billy Winn, LB James-Michael Johnson, S Tashaun Gipson and G John Greco were hardly household names on the Cleveland Browns.

Three were rookies. Winn and Johnson were taken in the last half of the 2012 NFL Draft, Gipson was an undrafted free agent and Greco was a journeyman. Their chances of making the team – let alone making a dent – seemed unlikely at best. By the end of the year, all four figured into the future of the team.

That’s what injuries will do.

All of the players benefited greatly from injuries to others, getting a chance to play and even start. And they made the most of it.

Here’s a look at each player:

Winn – While DT Phil Taylor spent the first eight games of the year on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List recovering from a pectoral injury, the Browns were looking for someone to play alongside DT Ahtyba Rubin. Most thought it would be John Hughes – the latter of the team’s two third-round draft picks. It turned out to be a draft choice all right, but it was Winn – taken three rounds and five selections later as the last of three sixth-rounders.

An active and athletic Boise State product, Winn started 10 games and contributed 26 tackles – five for loss – along with a sack, an interception, three passes defended and two fumble recoveries. Although there is new coaching staff in place and a new defensive coordinator in Ray Horton (making the switch to a 3-4 front from a 4-3), look for Winn to get a lot of playing time again – even with a healthy Taylor. He earned it. He was that impressive last year.

Johnson – When he arrived, the most notable thing about him was his hyphenated first name. But with Scott Fujita (shoulder/neck) and Scott Gocong (Achilles) lost for the season with injuries, Cleveland needed linebackers desperately and eventually turned to the former Nevada star – the latter of its two fourth-round picks. He missed the first four games himself with a rib injury and the final two contests with a knee problem. But in between, he started eight games and had 32 tackles, including two for losses.

The Browns have done a lot in the offseason to bolster themselves at linebacker, but all of it has been on the outside. Johnson plays inside and will probably start alongside veteran D’Qwell Jackson.

Gipson – He missed six games himself – including five with a knee problem – but with injuries at safety overall, he got plenty of opportunities when he was on healthy. With 29 tackles and an interception, he played well enough to get strong consideration to start at free safety in 2013 next to SS T.J. Ward.

Greco – Coming from Bernie Kosar’s high school alma mater (Youngstown Boardman) and the University of Toledo, Greco was a nice story when he was acquired in a 2011 trade with the St. Louis Rams, with whom he had spent three seasons. He had no starts that year, but when LG Jason Pinkston was lost early in 2012 with a blood clot, Greco ended up starting 10 games and did a nice job. Pinkston is expected to return this season, but Greco should still play a lot at both left guard and maybe at right guard as well with Shawn Lauvao.

So now instead of being just a nice story, Greco’s story is now one worth watching for Browns fans.