How good has the defense really been through the first six games? Have the special teams been special at all? In the second Browns bye week review, we take a look at where both areas stand at the bye. Do they need work? Are they already at the mountaintop? How can they help a struggling offense? Let’s get right down to it then.
The Browns defensive line came into the season with great fanfare. Everyone, including myself, saw them as one of the most talented groups in the NFL. The havoc they caused during the preseason increased the hype even more. Fans were trying to give them nicknames because of the wreckage they were producing. It was fun to watch.
At this point in the season, we have yet to see that level of play. By no stretch has the line been awful, but when you have Myles Garrett. Olivier Vernon, Larry Ogunjobi, and Sheldon Richardson on that front, they should dominate almost every game. The only time we have seen this happen was week four in Baltimore. They have made some big plays nearly every week but have yet to carry that dominate performance from the preseason into the regular season. The only exception may be Myles Garrett who is currently on pace for 24 sacks this season. He is clearly still chasing that defensive player of the year award.
The linebackers are dealing with the injury bug this season. Christain Kirksey is once again dealing with a pectoral tear. This injury has forced rookie Mack Willson to step in and learn on the fly. While his pro football focus grades may not show it, Brown’s coaches believe he is doing an admirable job considering the circumstances.
Here is what Browns linebackers coach Al Holcomb had to say “Mack is doing a really good job right now,” Holcomb went on to say, “Obviously, it is on-the-job training being a young guy, so he is going to go through some growing pains. Every day, he learns more and more and more, and he is starting to feel a little more comfortable not only with the system but with the speed of the game at this level.” The on the job training is going to continue as Kirksey is out for the season
The Browns do have Joe Schobert still flying around the field making plays. He has been excellent so far this season in the new defensive system. Schobert once again is at the top of the NFL in tackles making another push at the Probowl, quite possibly making All-Pro. He has been the anchor of this defense for three years and should continue to play well down the stretch. The Browns currently list three starters at the position, but these two play nearly all the snaps.
The Browns secondary has been beaten up this year with injuries. Starting corners Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams have missed multiple games with hamstring injuries. Damarious Randall missed two games dealing with a concussion. Morgan Burnett missed time with a quad issue. The Browns have been forced to create a patchwork secondary all season. So far, they have held up under all the injuries giving up only 219.3 yards passing per game. Hopefully, the bye allows for the starters to heal and get out there for the final ten games.
Points against: 25.7(23rd)
Total yards gave up per game: 373.3 (23rd)
Average passing yards gave up per game: 219.3(6th)
Average rushing yards gave up per game: 154.0(30th)
The Browns currently have the fourth-best special teams in the NFL per Football Outsiders. While they might not be the most explosive group, The Seattle game aside, they get the job done. Over the last ten games of the year, all you can do is hope they keep up the great play and maybe provide a few more explosive ones to help the offense along. This group has easily been the best and most consistent of the three phases all year. Dontrell Hilliard has been a solid return man for the Browns this year.