Dog training

Browns’ mysterious Alpha Dog training camp competition fuels defense

BEREA, Ohio — There’s a very notable battle at Browns training camp this season that’s shrouded in mystery.

The Alpha Dog competition — or perhaps more aptly called Alpha Dawg — is a competition Cleveland’s defense enters as the season approaches.

What we know:

  • It is made up of four teams.
  • These teams were chosen by a “cabinet,” according to defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
  • It’s designed to help the Browns’ defense improve on certain challenges starting in 2021, including creating takeouts.

But with some good-natured scheming, the Browns are keeping the rest a secret.

At least they try.

The world would still be completely in the dark about the battle were it not for a near-disposable line thanks to safety John Johnson III, who answered a question about improving the Browns’ takeout and gave reporters a bit more – which isn’t surprising considering he earned several votes for the media’s annual “Good Guy Award” last season and it’s still a great interview.

“We have a competition going on with the whole defense, it’s called the Alpha Dogs,” Johnson said Thursday. “It’s not just takeaways, it’s attacking the ball. We want to keep attacking the ball, good things will happen. It’s like the first thing we mentioned when we came back for training camp. We’ve seen the numbers, but we’ve said takeout is what’s most important.

The answer came much to Woods’ chagrin when he confronted reporters 24 hours later.

But as with Johnson, Woods let slip a few more details about the competition.

“It’s a secret !” he said laughing. “I won’t go into all the details, but basically we try to make our practices into games. We try to put all the information together and then we keep track of which guys are leading each category and which teams are leading each category and then there may be a reward at the end.

Although the categories are not known, we can make educated guesses.

Based on Johnson’s answer, takeout is probably an aspect of competition. The Browns were in the middle of the pack with those last season, forcing just 19 overall, tying them for 21st in the league.

The Browns also really appreciate quarterback pressure, which Kevin Stefanski brought up earlier this week when talking about Myles Garrett’s impact on games and how it’s not just about sack count. .

Woods also spoke extensively about improving situational football, including third down conversions and red zone conversions. Last year, opposing teams converted 39.3% of their third attempts against the Browns (19th in the league) and converted 34 of 52 red zone attempts into touchdowns (65.4%).

And with the Browns remaining in the build-up phases of training camp leading up to full pads on Tuesday, that’s about all we can guess for now in terms of competition. There may be more to glean over time.

“You’ll see,” said Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. “As the camp progresses, you will know more about it. But yeah, it’s that Alpha Dawg thing we do. We’ll see who comes out. It’s all I can give.

It’s understandable why the Browns want to keep this in-house, their own special competition and prize money that the rest of the world doesn’t know about.

Training camp days are long, often over 11 hours for players. What better way to keep players focused and engaged despite the heat wave, endless meetings and endless drills?


The Browns not only appreciate the drills and competition aspect of Alpha Dog, but also keep it a secret.

“I’m also going to be secretive because I don’t want to be fined by these guys.” Stefanski joked. “I think what you’re trying to do is that training camp is long and competitive, but you’re still looking for ways to motivate guys on a daily basis. Each group of positions does it in its own way, and certainly Joe with the unit takes him to a unique place.

Owusu-Koramoah gave a more poetic explanation.

“You have to find something that allows you to propel yourself,” he said. “It’s a question of motivation, innovation, elevation, evolution. It’s about always going in a direction where you can make people better, and that’s what we did. We found something everyone loves. You know, we have several different tools that we use to keep guys engaged.

Even if a lot of things are not known now, we will probably get there. Eventually, the guys won’t be able to stop talking, especially when it comes to who will win the Alpha Dog prize in the end.

Jubilation seems almost inevitable.

“Coach Woods hasn’t spoken to us about it yet, but there’s definitely a price tag,” Johnson said. “We have four teams and I think my team will win.”

May the best Alpha Dawg win.

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