Izaan Cross is entering into his second year as a starting defensive end in Coach Groh's 3-4 scheme. As most of the returning starters will attest, Cross included, this season should be much improved on the defensive side of things, as everyone has a better understanding of their roles.
"When we're sitting in our meetings going over the plays, I already know it all," Cross stated. "Me, Jason (Peters), and Logan (Walls), we know everything, and we're talking to everybody else on the defensive line. It's a lot more comfortable, and I feel a lot more at ease."
As the season nears, Cross stated that everyone is ready to get on the field and show how far they've come since last year.
"[From] a defensive standpoint, we're just excited. We're a lot more confident in what we're doing, being in another year of the scheme. We just want to make a dramatic increase of how it was last year, and that's our goal."
While improvement on defense should come with better familiarity of the scheme and another year of experience, Izaan knew that coming into this season in better physical shape was equally essential.
Cross, who played between 292-pounds and 296-pounds has trimmed down a bit to 287-pounds. Even Coach Johnson has taken note of the excellent shape Cross came into to camp in.
Cross mentioned how much work he put in this summer.
"It was definitely one of my goals to build my endurance and to trim down a couple of pounds, [but] not too much because I do need to be heavy to play defensive end," he said. " I just wanted to be in the best shape I could be in, and I worked hard for it this summer."
It seems, according to Cross, that his improved shape has already paid dividends.
"I feel like I'm definitely bouncing around more, and maybe it's because my legs are fresh because camp just started, but I definitely feel like I'm moving a lot quicker," Cross stated.
Another important factor for an improved defensive effort this year is the depth of the defensive line. Cross feels that the Jackets have a stable of players that can rotate in and keep everybody fresher.
"I definitely feel like we have a lot more depth," said Cross. "Euclid (Cummings), Too Tall (Emmanuel Dieke), and Chris Crenshaw, I feel like they're going to be able to contribute this season. Just having confidence in them to do whatever we need to do will allow me to not hold anything back on every play, knowing that I have a [quality] substitute coming in for me."
Add all those factors up, and it's clear that Cross expects his performance, and the performance of the entire defense, to improve in 2011.