April 20, 2014

Perhaps We’re Running the Wrong Defense?

There are many reasons that the Browns lost yesterday, first and foremost being that they played a very talented and deep Dallas team that is a Superbowl contender. The offense struggled to find a rhythm, with Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson not on the same page a number of times. Donte Stallworth has been injury prone throughout his career, with the exception of last season. The Browns can’t have him out if they expect to win right now. Our depth at WR is non-existent. That being said, the most disappointing part of yesterday’s game has to be the defense.

Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams were supposed to be the players that made all the difference on this team. As we have been told time and time again, the front three are supposed to take up blockers in Crennel’s 3-4 defense, leaving the LB’s free to make plays. We’ve waited (for years) for “the right personnel” to make this defense work. This was supposed to be that group. We gave away a lot of draft picks for this to be that group. After yesterday’s game I say that one of two things is true- either our LB’s are not good, or this defense is not going to work.

Watch the defensive line again if you have the game recorded. Rogers gets the double team nearly every play. On running plays (like Felix Jones’ TD up the gut) he was blocked by the center and the play-side guard. The three down lineman were no match for the five guys blocking them, three of which have been pro-bowlers by the way. The point is, that in this defense the line did essentially what it was supposed to do. Granted, Williams was brought in here to beat his man a few times a game and provide pressure, which didn’t happen. But where in the world are the linebackers? One of the OLB should always be going for the QB on a pass play. The supposed advantage for the defense is that the offense doesn’t know which one is coming. Well, I’d say it was Kamerion Wimbley 75% of the time? And he certainly didn’t sniff the QB, especially when the Browns only rushed 4.

The inside backers (Jackson and Davis) are responsible for stepping up and meeting the running back at the line of scrimmage. They are supposed to shed blockers if necessary and get the job done. Go back to Felix Jones’ TD run. Not only did the Cowboys guard help double team Rogers on that play, but he peeled off and blocked Jackson as well. That’s right- one guard, two blocks and a touchdown. There were certainly times when the Browns stuffed the run. In fact, the Cowboys weren’t able to run outside the tackles. But right up the middle they ripped the Browns. Double team on Rogers, and no linebacker in sight.

It wasn’t until the Browns started bringing 5 and 6 rushers that they got any pass rush at all. Maybe that is what they will have to do all season, but I’m beginning to think that the Browns would be better off in a 4-3. Williams and Rogers were stand-outs in that scheme. I know, the time to switch would have been camp. I don’t expect the Browns to make the move now. We really don’t have the depth to do it on the d-line anyway. But with the contracts that the Browns signed Rogers and Williams to, they have to find a way to make this work.

It’s one game. We do have to remember that we were ready to bury the Browns after the first game last year too. I’m very disappointed in this one however.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Mike

    D’Qwell Jackson is very overrated…if he’s rated highly by anybody still. When is he going to start making tackles at the line of scrimmage?

    I think it’s safe to say the LB’s need an overhaul this offseason.

  • kiddicus maximus

    Defensively speaking they’re about as deep as a kiddie pool. From the DL to the DBs, there isn’t a pro-bowl-caliber player among them, and something there needs to change quickly if we’re going to give this season any serious playoff consideration.

    Rogers looked like Washington, barely moving and being double-teamed. That is his job, but that double team should free up somebody to get to the ball carrier. It didn’t. I think I saw Tony Romo stop and tie his shoe on one of those downs.

  • TampaBrett

    Yes we did thrash the Browns last year at this time, but we play the Steelers next week which in my eyes is a must win. How would the division look if the Steelers started 2-0, and the Browns 0-2? They need to get their scheme together. It’s sad, but I can picture it now just like every play last year for the Browns against the Steelers. 3rd and 8, awesome protection by the Browns on the wideouts, nice pass rush, and skoot skoot there goes Ben running for 15 yards.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    @kiddicus- you can’t expect Rogers to beat a double team and make a tackle. Not gonna happen, especially against pro-bowl level players.

  • Chris

    What also didn’t help was DA looking like he was still suffering from a concussion, Edwards dropping 5 passes, and the offense doing absolutely nothing after the few times the defense mustered enough strength to stop the Dallas offense. There was really nothing this team did well at all in this game, I wouldn’t pin it all on the defense. But I would say it’s an understatement to say that this team does not look suited for the 3-4.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com DP

    As you point out, Rick, there are some Pro-Bowlers on Dallas’s o-line. Let’s see how they do this weekend against a more suspect Pittsburgh line.

    Re: the LBs, they’re just going to have to coach up what they have, which is sadly not much. Hopefully Alex Hall gets more playing time, because if I have to watch McGinnest play for much longer I don’t think I will survive the season. I guarantee Big Ben won’t be able to run AWAY from Hall like he did to Willie last year.

  • pat

    1. RIck, kiddicus isn’t saying Rodgers should make tackles. He is saying he should take up space and a couple of linemen to free up an end or safety for a rush. Did you see that happening?

    2. the steelers are going to come in and stomp us…..again.

    3. they need to pick up some help, mike doss would help. He’s old but I think he could help out this mutt defense.

  • pat

    cutting off commenters huh?

    1. RIck, kiddicus isn’t saying Rodgers should make tackles. He is saying he should take up space and a couple of linemen to free up an end or safety for a rush. Did you see that happening?

    2. the steelers are going to come in and stomp us…..again.

    3. they need to pick up some help, mike doss would help. He’s old but I think he could help out this mutt defense.

  • Boomhauer

    Last year in Game 2 the opponent was the Bengals. Big difference between them and the Steelers.

  • DCBucks

    I think we’re running the wrong defense. Can we switch with the Bears?

  • Ricky

    I love Alex Hall’s potential as much as the next guy, but right now he is only effective at rushing the passer, and nothing else. I’d like to see him get some situational playing time but he can’t be counted on as a every down player just yet. Pat, I don’t know how Mike Doss would help, he was effective in run D but absolutely terrible in coverage. I think our safeties are the only reliable players on our defense, Pool when healthy is pretty good and Jones is good too, although he did struggle defending Witten (one of the best TEs in the league in my opinion). I really think our D-Line did exactly what it was supposed to yesterday, although maybe it could have done more in run defense, but our LBs lack a single playmaker. That is the biggest thing a LB needs to do, make plays, and ours don’t. I really think Leon Williams is our best LB. He isn’t that good in coverage but he is better than Davis, and he has pretty good sideline to sideline speed, so he needs to play more. Wimbley needs to step up his game and learn more than one move to get the the QB

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    I was a huge Mike Doss fan when he was at OSU, but no way does he help the Browns. His strength in college was playing the run, but he was a bit undersized in the NFL, and not as fast either. Doss would not have done any better covering Witten yesterday.

  • Harv 21

    Maybe Mel Tucker’s problem is, like the Detroit Lions’ coaching staff, he “just don’t understand the big man.”

    Has anyone but me noticed that when we send a secondary guy on a blitz he not only gets stopped cold by a running back but usually falls down completely? This is a problem. So Tony Romo still has a clear field of vision but now one less DB out there. He had so much time yesterday he probably thought someone was crawling toward him to offer a pedicure.

    I hope that for some reason what we saw yesterday was a lack of effort and intensity (why that would be is a whole other discussion). Because if our personnel on both sides of the line is that much worse than our good opponent yesterday, we are stuck solidly in Mediocorville for the foreseeable future.

  • Matt in Lyndhurst

    Mary K’s reporting that Stallworth is having an MRI and his injury is a pulled quad, not a groin.

  • The Bambino

    Rick, I’m with you on several points in this article, but think back to that article where you gave the Browns defense a free pass on the last preseason game. Now do you see why preseason games can indicate a glaring weakness?

    I completely expected the Browns secondary and LB’s to get scorched after watching them against the Lions WR’s and TE’s.

  • The Bambino

    *3rd preseason game, not the last one. Sorry.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com DP

    Ricky-
    I don’t disagree that Hall isn’t ready to be considered a complete player, but his athleticism more than makes up for McGinnest’s experience, IMHO. McGinnest is painful to watch, and he lacks the speed anymore to make plays. Hall at least brings that to the game. And, honestly, I’d rather have him going after Ben than Big Willie.

  • Dan the Goalie

    Bingo! That’s it-

    Problem #1 – 2 fat/2 slow – the 3-4 requires quickness on the line and speed at the linebackers, and the Browns have neither. 340 +lb 4-3 defensive tackles do not have what it takes to play end in the 3-4. In addition, McGinnest and Davis look like they’re running in cement shoes. Wimbley is a 4-3 rush end, and that’s where he should be. He’s not a linebacker, and it shows. Shaun Rogers is Ted Washington with a mohawk – he got pushed all over the place yesterday, ditto Corey Williams. Not good-

    Problem #2 – The secondary stinks, no surprise there. The issues they have are magnified by Problem #1.

    Romeo is pounding a square peg into a round hole with the 3-4 defense. They simply do not have the correct personnel to run it.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig

    I have always defended DQwell because I thought he had a lot of potential. Yesterday he failed miserably in his gap responsibility. All he had to do a couple times was step up into the gap and make a play. There wasn’t even a blocker in front of the runner. But Jackson just sat back, didn’t cut off the angle and Felix Jones made one juke and was gonzo. This isn’t Shaun Rogers’ fault. He really was taking up the extra blocker. The people behind him need to recognize the hole as well as the running back coming through that hole, and fill it. I also don’t think you can necessarily pin too many mistakes on the DB’s. They were soft at times, but the amount of coverages they were expected to hold as nobody got to the QB was problematic to say the least.

  • AMC

    Talented linebackers who get pressure on the QB are the key to running a successful 3-4 defense. The Browns best defensive players – Rodgers, Wimbley and the Smith duo are really D-Lineman (Wimbley is an undersized defensive end in a 4-3). Our linebackers are as bad, or even worse than the secondary. McGinest and Davis are too slow and Jackson and Williams lack any talent. With that kind of linebacking core, we cannot successfully run a 3-4. Plus, if you look at the best 3-4 defenses throughout history they all show the ability to run different types of exotic blitz schemes. If you listened to Grossi’s podcast today on cleveland.com, he said several times that it’s not Crennel’s philosophy to blitz! Well if you don’t blitz in the 3-4, you’re never going to get pressure just bringing your 3 down linemen. Crennel is a joke, and I thought that before the Browns got “debacled” yesterday.

  • http://lswtf.com JackGonzo

    AMC brought up a point I was about to bring, the lack of creativity of blitzing in our 3-4. Dick LeBeau calls his 3-4 organized chaos, and that’s what ours should be as well. how hard would it be for Wimbley to sack the QB when Williams and Rogers take up 3 blockers on his side and he flexes and goes in between them?

    Alex Hall does show huge upside, but he’s still learning to fill the gaps, watched him blow that a few times yesterday, but it may be easy to say that he played the best out of our linebackers. They just don’t have the speed to cover the WRs. More then once Jackson was beat because he couldn’t keep up with a WR.

    Now if we don’t switch to the 4-3, I think John Lynch should be someone we should look into for our secondary because Mike Adams is KILLING us. And let’s open our purse strings and pay for Ty Law already.

    Now Pitts’ line isn’t the best in the world anymore, it will be interesting to see if we can finally get some pressure on BB.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    Signing Ty Law is putting a band aid on a gaping wound.

  • Hoy

    Signing Ty Law is putting an old festering soar that our coach has a special place in his heart for, on a gaping wound.

    People’s comments about Willie being too slow at LB would be true for Law at DB, his best (and fastest) years are behind him. Ty may be able to step up for his old coach, but then again he could just as easily sign that fat contract he wants and then go into early retirement mode on the field.

    Hoy

  • http://lswtf.com JackGonzo

    I’m not saying Law should START at CB, he should be our nickle back where his experience would make plays more often then not. Besides Rick, at least a band aid will still a tiny bit of the blood on a gaping wound, which may just be enough to win a ball game.

  • The truth

    All I am going to say is we need a new Coach…

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Mike

    Well, right now we only have one 4-3 DE and that’s Wimbley…maybe McGinest if you can find a time machine.

  • http://lswtf.com JackGonzo

    I don’t know, Hall may be able to play DE in a 4-3. Move Jackson to outside, Davis middle and McGinnest at the other outside.