The Cleveland Brown defense was something of a mirage last season. It ranked as one of the lowest for run defense #30 overall and ranked as one the highest for pass defense #2. We could look at this in two ways. We were so bad at stopping the run that teams decided that they did not need to pass on us, or that Dick Jauron the new Defensive coordinator really set up a shutdown secondary. Only the Kansas City Chiefs had less pass attempts thrown on them the entire season. On the other hand the Browns ranked 6th in the league for completion percentage giving up only 56.5% a game. So maybe it was a little of both. The one thing that is for sure is that the Browns cannot stop the run. After switching from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3 the Browns still can’t stop the run. Just like the offense, the defense gets a pass as well. With no rookie minicamps, no OTA’s and installing a new defense, the Browns more than held their own. Being part of the reason there was ever a chance for victory. If given an opportunity for an off-season, a chance to install some new players this Cleveland Brown defense could be something to contend with in the near NFL future.
So now it’s time to breakdown what we have and what I think we should do in the draft.
Team needs on defense: FS, LB, CB, DT, and DE
Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine
Joe Haden has given us a true shutdown corner for the first time since coming back to the NFL in 1999. He is becoming a name in the league, something that is not easy to do when playing for Cleveland. Joe’s ability to match up athletically with any receiver and his ability to provide run support is putting him in the Derrelle Revis category. I expect his third year being pro to be his break out year. Sheldon Brown has lost a step but his technique and toughness gives him just enough to stay on the field. I would beg the Browns to move Sheldon Brown to FS where that same technique and toughness would provide a huge need in our secondary. Sheldon is a great communicator on the field. That ability to do so from the FS position will only help diagnose plays faster and allow our younger DB’s to play smarter and more confident. His lack of speed should not kill us because of his technique. If you think he is fast enough to play CB then he is more than fast enough to play FS. Dimitri Patterson a late season signee turned out to be a treasure in disguise. Dimitri more than handled his own against the slot receivers. If the Browns were not to get a top CB in the draft I could really see Dimitri sliding over to the starting position allowing Buster Skrine to step up in the slot. Skrine’s special teams play allowed him more playing time later in the season, he did well enough to consider playing him in the nickel for the 2012 season.
T.J. Ward, Usama Young, Eric Hagg
This group needs more help than most people like to talk about. Like I have already stated Sheldon Brown needs to be moved to the FS position to feel that huge need. T.J. Ward did not live up to second year expectations, mainly because of injury. Ward is a sure tackler that has played some corner in college, so the ability to cover is there. His ability to cover elite TE’s may be his only downfall in the long run. He is very strong and causes a lot of fumbles. He is an average NFL starter who could work his way into above average player if he cuts down on the mental mistakes.
Usama Young did not do enough to unseat Mike Adams at FS. Young is a ok player that was injured much of training camp, an opportunity to learn in the offseason will hopefully help his game. Eric Hagg is a seventh round draft pick that plays hard and plays with technique. These two should be able to provide depth in the defensive backfield.
Player the Browns should draft: Trumaine Johnson CB/FS Montana, Alfonso Denard Nebraska, Chase Minnifield Virginia, and Cliff Harris Oregon
Why Trumaine? If I do get my wish and the Cleveland Browns move Sheldon to FS than I would like Trumaine to come in and learn the FS position along with Sheldon. With hopes he would take over. In the meantime he could come in and play some nickel and dime packages along with Buster. Trumaine is a big guy that was a ball hawk in college, who did not mind sticking his nose in run support.
Why Afonso? Just like Trumaine he is a college corner that could play FS, Alfonso is trouble, seeing he was just arrested, but the Browns just took players with backgrounds last year so this should not be a problem. He has all the tools I suggested of Trumaine, and he did it at a better school
Why Chase? Well his Dad was an all-time great DB for the Browns. Along with Hanford Dixon they named a cheering section in Cleveland the “Dawg Pound”. It seems only right. Aside from that, he can play. He would be an ideal slot corner because of his length and ability to change receiver’s direction.
Why Cliff? He is a player. He played for Oregon and practiced against some great passing attacks daily. He can cover anyone with his athleticism; his size is what throws him off. He is listed at 165, so that is a problem. Off the field issues will push him down the draft but is worth the late picks
D’Qwell Jackson, Scott Fujita, Chris Gocong, Kaluka Maivai
D’Qwell is the only star of the unit. I truly believe that you need at least 2 star LB’s in a 4-3. We know what we have in Jackson, the NFL leader in solo tackles and second in overall tackles. We have Chris Gocong who played well on the strong side when Fujita left with injury still only managed 70 Tackles on the season, Fujita 50. Chris can stay at the Strong side LB position where he is better suited at helping blowing up running plays. His problem is that he can’t cover the TE. Not having an elite SS to cover up his mistakes, the Browns usually get beaten by teams with pretty good TE’s.
Something has to give, since the Browns signed Gocong to an extension, Scott is the odd man out. Scott Fujita is injury prone, to often he finds himself chasing plays and usually is not fast enough to catch up. Kaluka is a good player that has the tools to play the weak side, and did it well when Chris moved over to strong side. He could develop into a starter in the NFL and be really good. He has a little of the London Fletcher in him, a small guy that just plays. He played at USC on a defense that has produced NFL superstars so the ability to play with the big boys is there; all he needs is a chance to compete. Scott needs to go to the bench and provide depth and let the other two step up if nothing is addressed in the draft.
Players to consider in the draft: Vontaze Burflict Arizona State, Sean Spence University of Miami, FL, Travis Lewis Oklahoma, Bruce Irvin West Virginia
Why Vontaze? It was shown last year that the Browns want football players, even if it comes with a little attitude. Flat out this kid can hit, he may be a problem but when he is dialed in he plays. You take a chance on him becoming something, and if he does not he will be a Kamikaze on special teams.
Why Sean? Production. He is small and not very strong but the kid just stays around the football at all times.
Why Travis? Production. He broke Brian Bozworths freshman tackle record, even when injured he provided good numbers. A slow 40 time could push him down in the draft and right into the Browns hands. He could come in and start the Weak side position from Day One.
Why Bruce? Extremely athletic player that is raw but still has the natural instincts to play the game at a high level. Bruce had to deal with a lot of negative results in his life. With the help of responsible adults, he rebounded into the position he is in now. Not only do
Ahyta Rubin, Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker, Brian Schaefering, Marcus Bernard
Ahyta Rubin is an above average player on the defensive line. He excelled in the NT for Mangini’s 3-4 and transitioned seamlessly to Jauron’s 4-3 defense. Only Jason Pierre-Paul had more tackles and solo tackles than Ahtya Rubin. That is across the entire Defensive Line across the entire NFL. When it comes to DT he is the #1 tackler in the league. He does his job as the 3 technique very well, even increasing his sack total. Phil Taylor has come in as a first round draft pick and showed flashes of a pretty good player. Phil did start to wear down as the season went on but showed the strength and quickness, the Browns want at the position. Phil finished with 59 overall tackles finishing 4th overall in the NFL for DT’s.
Jabaal Sheard impressed a lot of people with his hustle throughout the season. Jabaal never really seeming to hit a rookie wall, finishing with 55 tackles ranking 8th among all DE in the league and a team high 8.5 sacks. He more than held his own as a second round draft pick. With an offseason to prepare and time with the playbook I expect Sheard to develop nicely and not give up so many running lanes as the year before.
The addition of Frostee Rucker should really bolster up the Defensive Line for run support. In an alternating position in Cincinnati Rucker managed to finish in the top 20 of all DE for tackles 44 and solo tackles 32. When looking at the numbers, it seems this is the most experienced group among the entire Cleveland Browns team. Juqua Parker and Brian Schaefering comes in and fills in with depth and years of experience. Marcus Bernard should be back from injury and ready to contribute on passing downs rushing the QB.
Players to consider drafting: Alameda Ta’amu UW, Josh Chapman Alabama
Why Alameda? He is like Phil Taylor a big guy that can move, he does not grade out as well but he can definitely come in for Phil or Ahtya allowing Phil to do some 3 tech. He would be a great for depth
Why Josh? Played hurt last season and still helped team to a National Championship. He is strong at the point of attack and is hard to move. Would be another great player to use for Depth on the line