Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cleveland Browns Season in Review-The Defense

The Cleveland Browns poured lots of money into their defense under the assumption that they would be a run first team that would win by pounding the ball on offense and shutting teams down on defense.
Now we know how that turned out,but I think a lot of this can be blamed on defensive coordinator Jim O'Neill and his decisions/philosophy.
Here is our look at the Browns defense....

The defensive line was still a sieve against the run,but they did manage a mildly improved pass rush with the Bryants (Desmond and Armonty) leading the group with 6 and 5.5 sacks respectively.
Armonty Bryant also was used as a standup outside backer,which he wasn't quite as effective at.
Randy Starks didn't bring as much as hoped for after being signed as a free agent and John Hughes didn't set the world on fire after signing an extension before the season.
Danny Shelton was somewhat of a disappointment after being drafted in the first round,but played very well over the final month and gives me hope that this maturation will continue next season.
The surprise was Jamie Meder as the former Ashland Eagle showed signs of at least being a strong rotational player,while third rounder Xavier Cooper was seldom used after being a preseason terror.

The linebackers still lacked impact players as Jim O'Neill continued the sad Browns tradition of not using players skills in the best usage.
Paul Kruger was less than strong (16 tackles,2.5 sacks),but Kruger was used less and less in the pass rush (his strength) and more in pass coverage,which isn't really his game.
Kruger has a 6.5 million dollar roster bonus coming and considering his drop in performance,the Browns could cut him loose unless Ray Horton thinks he can revitalize Kruger.
Nate Orchard was drafted to be a rush end at outside linebacker,but O'Neill rarely cut him loose and used him in pass coverage more often.
Orchard was surprisingly good in that role,but he wasn't drafted to do that-Orchard might have had a much larger impact had he been used as a pass rusher more often.
Former first rounder Barkevious Mingo was used similarly as Orchard and like Orchard was drafted as a pass rusher.
Mingo has tremendous speed,but lacks strength and when he would reach the quarterback,this lack of strength often hurt his ability to bring the QB down.
Mingo might go elsewhere,unless Ray Horton decides to try a reclamation project in a similar manner to Paul Kruger.
Karlos Dansby was his solid self,but at 34,the Browns at minimum need to be thinking about replacing him down the road.
Craig Robertson was nothing special at one inside spot,while Christian Kirksey played well,although I don't see him being a top level starter.

The secondary was pretty bad and I might be being a bit generous in that statement.
Joe Haden struggled early,never got better and wound up missing most of the season with concussion problems.
The Browns will need him to bounce back,because for all the money put into the secondary,there isn't anyone capable of replacing him.
Veteran Tramon Williams was brought to Cleveland to be the second corner at age 32.
With the injuries to Haden,Williams was forced into the top spot and was overwhelmed at the number one corner.
Williams is best suited to be a 3rd or 4th corner at this stage of his career and the Browns simply asked too much of an aging veteran.
The Browns used a variety of young players at the corner and none truly distinguished themselves.
Pierre Desir has the physical skills,but still is very raw,K'Waun Williams is more polished,but has a susceptibility to injury,Charles Gaines played late in the season with mixed results,Johnson Bademosi was badly beaten and was overmatched as anything more than a special teams player and Justin Gilbert continues to give the Browns next to nothing from a top ten draft pick.
At safety,Donte Whitner is still a solid tackler,but is getting worse and worse in pass coverage as he clearly has lost a step.
Tashaun Gipson had quarrels with the front office before last season over being tendered a contract,went out and was less of the ballhawking centerfielder than in 2014 and will likely leave via free agency.
Look for the Browns to address this position in either the draft or free agency.
Ibraheim Campbell played fairly well in his late season playing time and might have a chance to be the long term starter at strong safety.
Jordan Poyer is a special teams player that should be limited to just that role rather than any secondary time....

Andy Lee was one of the better punters in the league after being traded for from the 49ers with a 46 yard average.
Lee might have been the teams best asset in many ways.....


Defensive Line D+
The Bryants aside,the line didn't do a lot of pressuring the passer and the run defense remained a huge problem...

Linebackers C-
Nothing special,very few playmakers and players not used to their best abilities turned what was thought to be an asset into a below average unit...

Secondary D-
Lots of money spent for a low performing group.
A unit that spent more time chasing players than tackling them.

Punting A
Andy Lee was often this teams best weapon and was well worth the seventh round pick spent to acquire him....

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