Cleveland Browns’ Starting Outside Linebackers
Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard will likely begin the season as the starters on either edge. While the pass rush has improved with the addition of Kruger and the anticipated position switch for Sheard, the Browns will need to emphasize stopping the run to facilitate executing competitive game plans. Coach Ray Horton will expect a shortage of missed tackles and the ability to get the opposing offense off the field quickly.
TJ Ward and Joe Haden have shown the ability to support well against the run, and with a deep defensive line the tools are there. If the Browns add Dee Milliner to shore up the pass defense and show the ability to get to the passer, teams may look to hit them with big plays in the run game. Draws on third down for long gains and delay handoffs may become something the defense will see often. Having veteran D’Qwell Jackson calling the defense and making adjustments is a valuable aspect of the defense. His abilities to be a coach on the field should help the other linebackers to get comfortable with one another.
In 2012, the Browns gave up an average of 118 yards per game on the ground. The defensive line’s ability to tackle will be a great asset to the run defense as teams may find themselves running away from good edge players and around a defensive line that can tackle. The Browns may give up big plays, but if they stick to coach Horton’s plan, teams will not be comfortable against them early in games.
If the Browns’ offensive run game is working well, the defense will get time during the games to adjust and communicate on the sidelines. If the defense is not rushed onto the field and can play under control, they will be competitive in every game.