BEREA, Ohio Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is getting credit for having the Browns ranked currently as the fourth best defense in the NFL. He says the credit needs to go to the players.
"They're really a good group of guys and they're serious about getting better," Jauron said. "They have toughness about them and they just have to continue to get better."
Jauron said it wasn't a definite goal for him to be ranked at the top when he came to the Browns. He did say that to be competitive in the AFC North, the defense has to play well. Currently, the four AFC North teams are ranked one through four.
"I think it's pretty clear that this division is very good," Jauron said. "I don't know if I thought (about the ranking), but knew we have to have a very good football team overall, in order to compete in this division."
Pat Shurmur is confident the defense can continue to keep the Browns in games.
"I'm very confident," he said. "I feel like there's no reason that we can't go into every game and expect to have a very fine defensive performance. I think it's rare in this league that you hold a team to three points, I think it's very rare.
"I think our guys feel there is some confidence there that they're playing well as a defense so you like to think that they'll build on that confidence and detail their work during the week," he said. "They've practiced extremely well each week and I'm anticipating that it will be the same."
Jauron was happy the Browns held the Seahawks without a touchdown.
"You have to play well," he said. "You have to play hard and be a little lucky. Some things went our way and it has to go that way sometimes."
Jauron knows there's a long way to go in the season.
"It gets harder and harder as the season goes along," he said. "It always does."
Sunday's game against the 5-1 49ers will arguably be the defense's biggest test.
"It will be a huge test for us," Jauron said. "This is a very talented football team at just about every position."
The trio of T.J. Ward, Mike Adams and Usama Young have played well thus far this season and they will be tested against the 49ers by tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.
"(Ward) needs to play the run well and play the pass well and you've got to do it against two very, very fine players, not to mention Delanie Walker," Shurmur said. "I think they have eight touchdowns and the tight ends have scored six of the eight touchdowns.
"They're very fine players and I've seen them up close and personal for four games now," he said. "But, it's important that you're very disciplined playing the run and then with the run comes the play action. He's one of those guys that studies, so if there are any keys or indicators there that he'll find to help him be a step closer on a pass as well a couple feet closer making a tackle, I'm sure he'll get that."
Jauron said he's still learning about the safeties.
"We're learning more and more about them and how to use them as we get into the season," he said. "They are all tough guys and I'm happy with their play overall."
Ward is second on the team in tackles with 32. He had a strip sack against the Seahawks and a key pass break up. Jauron was asked if he thought Ward played his best game against Seattle.
"I think it probably was," he said. "The turnover was a huge play in the game. Hardly any points were scored and that led to our first score."
One of the strengths of the AFC North is the play of their safeties. The Steelers Troy Polamalu and the Ravens' Ed Reed have set the bar high.
Shurmur likes Ward's progress.
"I have seen his level of play increase," he said. "You're seeing a young guy progress. He's getting more comfortable in the scheme. All that communication is helping him.
"I think his general game has been good," he said. "His coverage and support in the run has been good."
Jauron says Ward is an integral part of the defense.
"He's an aggressive guy and we have to keep finding ways to use him."
Young was slowed in training camp with a hamstring injury and lost his starting job to Adams.
"(Young's) a big athlete that can move," Jauron said. "It took him a while to get back from that injury. He's caught up and we'll keep rotating him."
Young has 16 tackles with an interception and a pass break up. Adams has 12 tackles, with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He has broken up a pass, as well.
Hillis a No Go: RB Peyton Hillis showed up with a sore hamstring after practicing Wednesday and Shurmur said he will be held out of Thursday's practice.
"He was sore after practice," Shurmur said. "He won't practice (Thursday).
Hillis was listed as questionable on Wednesday's injury report, but Shurmur didn't say he wouldn't be able to play.
"Hopefully, he'll play."
Shurmur said he hasn't detected any frustration in Hillis being sidelined.
"I talked to him today and he's hanging in there trying to take it day to day," he said. "I don't sense any frustration. He's hoping to play."
Injury Update: Other than Hillis not practicing Thursday, Shurmur said the rest of the injury situation was the same as Wednesday.
OL Shawn Lauvao (knee), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (concussion), TE Ben Watson (concussion) and DB Ray Ventrone (hamstring) did not practice and are listed as doubtful.
"Mo is progressing and Watson is much like Mo," Shurmur said.
Lauvao is going to practice on Thursday.
Listed as questionable were K Phil Dawson (thigh), LB Scott Fujita (concussion), DB Joe Haden (knee), OL Tony Pashos (ankle) and Hillis (hamstring). OL Artis Hicks (back) and DB Buster Skrine (hip) are probable.
Shurmur said that Dawson is going to kick at practice.
Fast Start: Shurmur said he is emphasizing getting the offense off to a fast start.
"We practice the plays we're going to run to start the game and talk about what we're planning to do," he said.
No TO: Shurmur was asked if the Browns had any interest in WR Terrell Ownens.
"We did not go to the workout, but will keep personnel decisions to ourselves."