Friday, March 1, 2013

Cleveland Browns Defensive Off-Season Needs

    For the past two years the Browns have used a traditional 4-3-4 defense under the Holmgren regime, with Dick Jauron as Defensive Coordinator.   Everyone thought that it was going to be a difficult transition from Rob Ryan’s 3-4, but in 2011 that proved not to be the case.   The Browns has an amazingly good defense in 2011, despite a weak offense that usually gave Browns opponents good field position.  But in 2012, they slid back, partly because of injuries at key positions and a pathetically bad draft, especially from a defensive point of view.  After accumulating 14 draft picks for 2012,  the Browns were unable to add a major contributor on defense.  On offense, the Browns rookie of the year might have been Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Josh Gordon or Mitchell Schwartz.  But on defense, there is nobody at all.  Billy Winn might have been the best the Browns could do, as a part time defensive lineman. 

      This year,  Jauron is gone,  and now it is Ray Horton's turn to design a defense, going back to the 3-4-4 The likely outcome is that the Browns will go back to the 3-4-4 base defense. 

"3-4 or 4-3?  Who cares?  We know how the game is played."

    The defensive line is not so bad.  Ahtyba Rubin played nose tackle in the Mangini Regime  and Phil Taylor was  a nose tackle in college.  Taylor especially is very fast for a big man and can get after the passer.  It may be that the Browns will find a way to get both Rubin and Taylor on the field at the same time, and  Jabal Sheard and Frostee Rucker are capable defensive ends in addition to Wynn.  They might pick up a defensive end in the draft if there’s one available, but if the worst case is that they line up a 320 pounder at defensive end, is that really a weakness?

"Hey man, I CAN rush the passer, ok?"

The Browns lost  linebackers Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita to injury last year.  Plus they had to start the season without Joe Haden due to a suspension.   Nobody is sure if Gocong is going to be healthy or not, and Fujita may retire.  With Jackson as the only true talent in the linebacker corps, the Browns may have to add two or even three linebackers this off season.  


In the defensive backfield, the Browns have only two quality defensive backs:  Joe Haden at corner and T. J. Ward at safety.  Buster Skrine is the number two corner, and got picked on last year.   Sheldon Brown is a very tough player, but will not be back.  I think Sheldon may have lost a step, which is why the Browns have not made a serious effort to re-sign him.    Hence the Browns will need another corner and a safety.  Young fast corners are tough to find, and some of the mock drafts have the Browns selecting Demarcus Milliner with their number 6 overall pick (here’s hoping that they do, instead of picking another quarterback). 


A lot of my friends think the Browns have great young talent, making great progress, blah, blah, blah.  But as I see it the Browns are woefully short on both sides of the ball.  They will need to add four players on defense and another four on offense (TE, RG, LG, WR).  On the other hand, they have the salary cap space to add several players.  We’ll see how good Mike Lombardi is at judging talent and negotiating favorable contracts.

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