As the Cleveland Browns start training camp,I think back to last season and the 4-12 record that the Browns were able to put together. Yes it was a long, losing, miserable, boring year.
The Cleveland Browns Backers parties that I attended in Arlington, TX dwindled down week after week. The enthusiasm when the Browns season started eventually turned sour by week 10 when they lost to the St. Louis Rams. My wife would no longer attend the games, she’s a Dallas Cowboy fan and the Browns were not doing a very good job of convincing her why my loyalty is so strong.
If you have the privilege of being a Cleveland Browns fan and I mean a loyal fan and not live in Cleveland. HAHA, you’re not even allowed to talk about the Browns without getting laughed out of the conversation.
But Hold up, Waiiiiiiiit to my people who are thinking we soft we don’t play……
The Browns finished in the Top 10 in overall defense last year, yes they had trouble stopping the run, but the pass defense was number 2 in the league. Ok, I know why pass, when you can run on the Browns, as they finished 30th in that department, but the point is the Cleveland Browns finished in the Top 10 on defense. Anyone who watches the Browns knows the defense spends a ton of time on the field, because the offense can’t seem to stay on it very long.
Oh by the way if you have not noticed. I’m going In, I’m going In, I’m going in….
If you listen to music you would appreciate my articles better.
Back to your regularly scheduled article reading…… (Elevator music)
So let’s look at the defense as it stands right now.
Dick Jauron has really molded this defense in a small amount of time. The switch from Rob Ryan’s 3-4, to the 4-3 has allowed the Defense to think less and play a lot faster. The positives that Jauron received from Ryan coached players were players who understood the game on all levels. Everyone does a little bit of everything for Coach Ryan. What Jauron was able to do is say to the players this is your job, 75% of the game this is your job. It cuts down on mental mistakes.
The Defensive Line really picked up strength with Free Agency and Draft.
- Billy Winn a 6th round pick out of Boise State, who as projected to go as high as the 3rd round could be the steal of the draft, the ability to play inside and out on the line will pay huge dividends. He is a large man that can move and plays with a motor. I wonder why he slipped. We will see why during Training Camp
- The Loss of Phil Taylor hurts, with Taylor and Ahtya Rubin improving up the middle it was sure the line had an anchor to build around. Speculation is saying Taylor may only miss another 10 weeks before he is ready to play. We will see about that thought. Hopefully what looks like a reach in John Hughes will develop as the DT that helped his teammate Derek Wolfe at Cincinnati turn into an all American and 2nd round pick. Meaning he does all the little work while the rest of the line makes plays.
- Jabaal Sheard was moved to the left side of the line where he was most comfortable rushing the Quarterback and flourished; I only expect to see improvement. As far as stopping the run and not creating huge running lanes, that is what I want to see from Jabaal in training camp.
- Frostee Rucker, I need you to just be better than Jayme Mitchell. That guy gave us nothing the right side of the line. I do believe Frostee is going to help shore up the line against the run. He did a great job in Cincy and I expect the same here. I am hearing he will play a little DE and DT on passing plays. Jugua Parker is her to coach up players in practice and give a few reps in the game.
- Wildcard Marcus Bernard, remember before Jabaal he led the Browns in sacks in 2010 with limited action. He came to camp overweight, and then was in a motorcycle accident. The time that he has used to heal, having the chance to know what the coaching staff expects from him and a commitment to a team that paid him even when they did not have too. I believe he will come in and be a great situation pass rusher. Scott Paxon and Brian Schaefering they don’t anything well enough to be sure starters, but can be good rotation guys with Jugua.
- I love the development of the line. We have some players that can make plays and some bodies that can play inside and out. We have some pass rushers, which is a must because the Linebackers won’t provide that pressure. Most importantly we have a training camp to work with. If the Browns finish below the Top 20 for stopping the run, it will be a huge shocker to me.
The Linebackers, Well D’Qwell got paid.
- D’Qwell Jackson is the staple of the Cleveland Browns line backing crew. He finished at #96 on the NFL’s top 100 players in 2012. He finished second overall in tackles in the league and will be better in his second season where he is back from surgery and a second season as a MLB in Jauron 4-3 system. A system he was built for
- Chris Gocong really picked up his physical play when he replaced Scott Fujita spot at SLB. I believe that spot is better suited for him and where he should start the 2012 season allowing Rookie James-Michael Johnson and Kaluka Maiava the chance to fight it out for the WLB position. I’m hoping that JMJ wins that fight.
- Scott Fujita needs to be locker room guy and help provide depth across the line backing crew. He can play multiple positions where a player like JMJ should only have to concentrate on one position.
- The problem with the Line backing crew is that it will not put much pressure on the QB, there is no real speed, and there is no depth. They have to consistently be in the right place at the right time. Hopefully this training camp will clear up some of the communication problems from last year.
The Secondary is looking to improve on the second ranked pass defense
- Joe Haden is the star of the defense. He is a shutdown corner waiting to happen and he plays the run well. Sheldon Brown is serviceable but how long can he be a number #2 corner. Dimitri Patterson really came on last year and played really well in the slot, his contract was a bit much but in a passing league it’s important to lock down a nickel guy. Buster Skrine is a speedster who played well when called upon. His athletic ability allows him to recover from mistakes. Look for Skrine to really push for playing time this year.
- I love Trevin Wade; he is a low risk, high reward player. He has the tools to be a very successful cornerback. Some people like him, some don’t. He is not super-fast, but he is fluid. He is strong at the position and played good competition. Reminds me of Leigh Bodden, and we see what he turned into.
- Will the real T.J. Ward stand up? The wrecking ball of a tackler went down with injury when he just started to blossom in 2011. He is listed as one of the top 25 players in the AFC North so the potential is there and people see it. Now it’s time to put it all together for 16 games. I’m smiling big right now, one reason is Eric Hagg, when he was drafted I thought to myself he was really productive at Nebraska and fell to us, Good deal. Hagg has done nothing but work his way into conversation for the starting FS position. Usama Young is just a guy. Nothing spectacular about him. But Eric is always around the ball. He is a football player. With T.J. and Eric we have two smart players that will sure up the tackling in the secondary and are in the right place at the right time.
- To sum it all up for the defensive secondary. I like it. Training Camp is huge for this group. This group could really develop into a consistent top 5 secondary. Sheldon is the only older guy on the secondary and his intelligence will only help push the young guys. It’s good to say that and know we will have some of these guys for a while
My faith in all of this is Dick Jauron. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. He was a former head coach who really knows the game. It was Jauron who was the defensive coordinator on the Jaguars when they made the playoffs 3 out of 4 years, and they were an expansion team.
Bottom-line is that he can coach. He took a defense that ranked very low for the past few years and turned them into a Top 10 defense, and he managed to do all of that in his first year and without a real offseason to speak of.
If the offense can figure it out and give the defense a chance to catch their breath and have some energy left in the 4th quarter. The Browns Defense will continue to be a Top 10 defense for years to come.