Everyone who has watched the Browns for the last several seasons had been able to tell that their defense has been lacking an identity, a spark, or any kind of consistency whatsoever. They routinely finish near the bottom of the league in rushing defense and overall defense, and lately their pass defense has been abysmal as well. Joe Haden has been injured much of the past two seasons and has not been in the Pro-Bowl form that he was before his contract extension, and the team lost Tashaun Gipson and Buster Skrine the last couple of years in free agency.
The linebacking corp has been filled with guys that have consistently failed to live up to expectations like Barkevious Mingo or Paul Kruger or guys who were past their prime and just came to Cleveland to collect one last big paycheck like Karlos Dansby or Scott Fujita. The defensive line has lost the battle up front and been mowed down late in games when opponents needed to run the ball down their throats to kill the clock. I also can’t remember when the Browns last had a pass rusher that was feared by teams around the league as someone who could make their quarterback’s life miserable throughout the game.
Teams come into Cleveland and know they can have their way with our defense. Their running packs will gash our team for at least five or six yards a carry, and their quarterbacks will have all the time they need to sit in the pocket and pick our suspect secondary apart. The Browns’ offense has been poor as well, so at the end of the game, the opponent can count on the defense being worn down from overuse as well. If they aren’t already in the lead, the opponents can exploit the gassed defense, and come back to win at the end of the game. This has been the story of the Browns’ defense the last few years, but hopefully that is about to change.
During this offseason, the defense has made quite a few changes. First of all, the signed fiery defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, to help try to change the identity of the defense. He is known to be an in-your-face type of guy who will provoke passion and energy. He will also hopefully be able to find ways to get the most out of his players. The team also re-signed talented linebacker, Jamie Collins, who they acquired in a trade with the Patriots during this past season. He is a very skilled, young player that should really be able to make an impact on that side of the ball.
In addition to Collins, the team also added the best pass-rusher in the draft to their defensive line when they took Myles Garrett with the first pick in the draft. He has the type of transcendent ability that could really turn the defense around and have opposing teams’ offensive coordinators up all night looking for ways to stop him. The team also added a second round talent with character concerns in Caleb Brantley that could aid in the pass rush as well. Larry Ogunjobi was added in the third round to help an improving Danny Shelton sure up the interior of the line and help stop the run. Pairing those guys with one of the few good draft picks the Browns recently made in linebacker Christian Kirksey, and the Browns may have the makings of a vastly improved front seven.
The secondary should see improvement as well with first-round draft pick, Jabrill Peppers. He is a dynamic player who will presumably play in coverage as well as help near the line of scrimmage against the run. Joe Haden should be completely healthy this year, and Jamar Taylor and free agent acquisition, Jason McCourty, should be solid helpers at the cornerback position. The team also claimed former Ohio State safety Tyvis Powell after he was cut by the Seahawks, and he should compete for the vacant position at free safety.
Headed by Gregg Williams, this revamped defense should show a lot more bite and heart during the 2017 season. The team used a lot of draft assets and some money on the defensive side of the ball, and hopefully their efforts will be rewarded with a much more competitive team this season. Regardless of who the quarterback is, if this young defense can learn quickly, they could make his job a lot easier. If the Browns can put together a fearsome, attacking defense, they could make teams fear coming to Cleveland again, and I’m not just talking about warm-weather teams making the trip in December.