Entering the bye week, the Cleveland Browns defense has tried to hold it’s own. By having an anemic offense, the defense becomes magnified more. Ranked 23rd in total yards, the Browns are giving up 380.1 yards per game. Only eleven teams give up more points than the Browns’ 23.4 points given up per game. Cleveland is in the bottom third of passing and rushing defense too. Nonetheless, let’s pass out some grades for Dick Jauron‘s defense by position.
Defensive Tackle: Give credit where credit is due. Filling in for Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin recently, rookies’ John Hughes and Billy Winn have answered the bell nicely. Together, they have 29 tackles and 2 sacks. Plucking off Ishmaa’ily Kitchen off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens hasn’t been bad thing either. Another rookie, Kitchen is a big body and a nice substitute in the DT rotation. The veteran Rubin has missed the last three games, but did create some havoc when he’s played with 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. Taylor is just coming back from injury and has played one game. Grade: C
Defensive End: Frostee Rucker was a great off season pick up for the Browns. He displays leadership and is a huge upgrade from Jayme Mitchell a year ago. Rucker’s 2 sacks are third best on the team and has 25 tackles. The sensational rookie from a year ago Jabaal Sheard is having a tough sophomore season. Hardly noticeable on the edge, Sheard has 1.5 sacks and 26 tackles. He had 8.5 sacks last year. The 34 year old Juqua Parker signed by Cleveland in the off season has given the starters breathers when needed and is credited with 2.5 sacks. In these next seven games, the Browns DE’s need to make a better effort to get to the quarterback. Grade: C
Linebacker: Led by a tough veteran named D’Qwell Jackson, the Browns line backing corps is young and raw. Jackson is very deserving of pro bowl stature and leads the Browns with 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 66 tackles. James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, Kaluka Maiava, and LJ Fort are still all very young with not much starting experience. Robertson has shown his potential with 2 interceptions and 49 tackles. Together, the group has 5 out of the 10 interceptions the defense has snatched. Grade: B+
Cornerback: It was clear as day that this group with out Joe Haden is near the bottom part of the league. With Haden back from suspension, life is much different in the secondary. Haden is the glue that holds these guys together. Although he provides leadership and does have an interception, Sheldon Brown is showing his age. Brown is often seen not looking for the ball when he assigned a receiver in man-to-man coverage. Buster Skrine, an injury prone Dmitri Patterson, and rookie Trevin Wade make up the rest of the corners. Both Skrine and Wade are scrappers that need more experience to determine if they will stay a Brown in the future. Grade: C
Safety: This has been disappointing. There was every reason to believe that TJ Ward was going to be mentioned with the names of Troy Palamalu and Ed Reed. It just hasn’t happened. The hard hitting Ward has been out of position in the passing game and it has hurt the Browns. Ward is stellar in the run game and does have 48 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. Usama Young replaced one of the stars of training camp, Eric Hagg. Playing his role, Young has 35 tackles, 2 interceptions and a sack. Rookie Tashaun Gipson has seen limited time and not been a factor. Grade: C
Unless if you have a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, not many teams are going to win games giving up over 23 points a game. In the second half, the Cleveland defense needs to find a way to get stops and turnovers at crucial points in the game. Someone needs to step up and be that guy when those times come. The bend but don’t break mentality will only get the Browns so far. They have seven more games to change that.
Ryan Ruiz – Cleveland Browns Writer
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