The Browns are 5-3 and getting ready to take on the Texans to start the second half and a potential playoff run. What ‘bad’ things from the first half do the Browns need to fix heading into the second half of the season.? Let’s take a look.
Sagging run defense
The Browns began the year as one of the top run defenses in the NFL. Through the first five games of the season, the defense allowed 87.0 yards per game as one of the top run defenses in the NFL. Some of this was the play of the front seven, but some of this was based on Cleveland’s inability to stop the pass. Teams don’t have to run when the pass defense is atrocious, but that is another article. The last three games have shown some kinks in that run defense armor.
Over the last three games, the run defense has allowed nearly as many yards (419) as they did through the first five (435). That is an average of 139.6 yards per game allowed during that stretch.
With the bad weather limiting the passing game, the defense was asked to stop an underachieving Las Vegas running game and answered by allowing 209 yards rushing. Obviously, with the concerns in the secondary already there, this was not what Cleveland fans wanted to see. The defense ranked in the bottom five of the NFL, but we were stopping the run. They will need to get back to it in the second half of the season if the Browns want any chance to win more than they lose going forward.
Defensive linemen not named Myles Garrett
We already pointed out what Myles Garrett has done in the first half of 2020. The rest of the defensive line needs to catch up.
Outside of his recent two-sack performance, Olivier Vernon had been injured again and just plain bad when on the field. Larry Ogunjobi started the year as a force in the run defense and has been up and down since his abdominal injury. Sheldon Richardson has been a solid veteran, but for $12 million, that is not good enough. Adrian Clayborn has not been the pass rusher they had hoped off the bench so far this season and has also dealt with an injury.
Hopefully, the bye week allowed the line to heal up, and we will see a much stronger group in the second half. The defense is built on the front four wreaking havoc, so they will need it to succeed.
Questions surrounded this linebacking core since the offseason. Andrew Berry’s only signing to help a young group was a veteran backup.
B.J. Goodson has started every game this season and has been on the field for 91 percent of the defensive snaps. Per the coaching staff, this is because his value is knowing the defensive plays and getting guys in the right position. Well, the defense is nearly on pace to give up a record number of points, and Goodson has not been a bright spot.
Per Pro Football Focus, Goodson is having the second-worst run-stopping year of his career. Considering he has played the most defensive snaps in his career, that is not a good sign. He is currently 30th out of 84 linebackers graded against the run. That is the part of the game he is supposed to excel at, and he has been average at best.
If you are only going to sign one linebacker in an offseason, it should be a good one, and Goodson has been average at best this season. Here’s hoping Goodson has found his fit in the new system, and his play is much better over the last eight games.
Another Andrew Berry signing that was supposed to help the run defense that has not done so. Karl Joseph has been bad enough, and Ronnie Harrison good enough that he has lost the starting job.
Joseph was signed after three straight seasons of great play in the run. The hope for fans was that he could step into the box and provide the same in Cleveland. It has not happened as Joseph has provided his lowest PFF run grade of his career.
Stay Tuned for Browns at the Halfway Point: The Ugly
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