It’s a horse race. Three players who rotate at the two inside linebacking positions and safety Sean Jones all have a chance to finish as the Browns’ leading tackler.

It’s a horse race.

Three players who rotate at the two inside linebacking positions and safety Sean Jones all have a chance to finish as the Browns’ leading tackler.

Tackle stats don’t mean everything.

“Since I have been here,” Head Coach Romeo Crennel said, “I have heard that — I’ll just call him Joe Blow — has led the team in tackles, but all the tackles were 5 yards down the field. There is not a whole lot of satisfaction with that.

“If they’re 5 yards in the backfield, there may be more satisfaction.”

The criticism has been leveled against Andra Davis, who led the 2006 Browns with 133 tackles. For what it’s worth, Davis leads the 2007 Browns with five tackles for loss but is second overall behind D’Qwell Jackson.

Tackle stats count for something.

“If a guy shows up as making a lot of tackles,” Crennel said, “that means he’s around the ball, and that’s what you want.”
 
A look at the Browns’ top 11 tacklers:

Player    Solo    Asst. Total

ILB D’Qwell Jackson    64    26    92

ILB Andra Davis    47    37    89

DB Sean Jones    38    46    85

ILB Leon Williams    60    22    84

DB Leigh Bodden    56    24    80

DB Eric Wright    46    16    60

DB Brodney Pool    31    27    58

DL Robaire Smith    33    20    53

OLB Kamerion Wimbley    34    17    51

DB Daven Holly    36    11    47

DL Shaun Smith    15    27    42

Tackles for loss: Davis 5, Robaire Smith 3, Jackson 2, Williams 2, Willie McGinest 2.

Sacks: Wimbley 5, Robaire Smith 4, Antwan Peek 4, Williams 2, Shaun Smith 2.

Built on Buckeyes

It’s uncanny how the Bills have collected former Ohio State defensive backs.

Cornerbacks Antoine Winfield and Nate Clements became megamillion free agents after establishing themselves as Buffalo first-round picks.

Buffalo’s current secondary features 2006 Round 1 pick Donte Whitner at safety and 2006 Round 3 pick Ashton Yobouty as a sub-package cornerback.

Former Ohio State star Dustin Fox made his first tackle as a Bill recently, on special teams, after being promoted from the practice squad. He is listed as the No. 2 right cornerback behind Terrence McGee.

Whitner grew up in Cleveland as Browns fan. He was 9 when the team made the 1994 playoffs, 14 when it came back from a three-year absence.

“I’d like to see the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs,” Whitner said, “but moreso I’d like to see the Buffalo Bills in there.

“That’s hard. I’m going to have family that’s rooting for the Browns to win.”

Snowbelt football

Today’s forecast calls for weather that could leave Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski play-calling his way through a winter wonderland.

“Going in, you have some contingencies,” Chudzinski said. “We have some things we’ll feature more if the weather is an issue.”

One Cleveland forecast called for as much as four inches of snow by Saturday night with more on the way.

What if the field cleans up nicely and weather is relative nonfactor?

“Then we have the rest of our plan,” Chudzinski said. “But there are definitely parts of the plan that are going to be geared more towards dealing with weather conditions.”

The plan has a name: Jamal Lewis.

Playoffs remembered

Chudzisnki is loving the playoff drive on multiple levels.

He grew up in Toledo as a staunch Browns fan. He was 18 when he saw his first Browns game live.

He picked a good one: The Browns beat the Jets in a 1986-season playoff game featuring one of the great late comebacks in franchise history.

Unbearable loss

Buffalo Head Coach Dick Jauron was piloting the Bears in 2001 when Cleveland took a 21-7 lead into the final minute at Soldier Field. How it happened is a long story, but the Bears rallied to win 27-21 in overtime.

“I’ll never forget that game,” Jauron said. “Never. Many people thought that game was over.”

The Browns would have been 5-2 had they hung on. They finished 7-9.

Bills to watch

Defensive ends Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay are the scariest part of Buffalo’s defense. Crennel said Schobel “just goes all the time. ... He never stays blocked.”

Two Butch Davis-era Cleveland draft picks are offensive linemen in Buffalo. Melvin Fowler will start his 30th straight game as the Bills center. Kirk Chambers is the No. 3 tackle.

The Bills can give Joshua Cribbs a run for his money. Punt returner Roscoe Parrish leads Devin Hester in average yards per punt return, 17.5-15.1. Terrance McGee has gone to a Pro Bowl as a kick returner.

Cribbs still leads the league in kick return yards (1,611) and average (31.0). No. 2 Leon Washington (Jets) has the next-best average, 28.5, followed by Ellis Hobbs (Patriots), 27.0.

Extra points

- Stanford was 10-20 in games started by Trent Edwards, Buffalo’s rookie starting quarterback. Edwards was born Oct. 30, 1983. Cleveland’s rookie quarterback, Brady Quinn, was born Oct. 27, 1984.

- Whitner volunteered predictions on two big bowl games: “Ohio State 31, LSU 30. ... That’s pretty much the only one I really care about. But ... Michigan, 24-22, over USC.” Whitner played for Ohio State in last year’s national title game.

- Rob Chudzinski says the Browns’ offensive line has become “greater than the sum of its parts — they’re developing a really nice chemistry.”

Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com