With the Cleveland Browns schedule released, all the big name free agents already signed and the draft looming, people are already starting to ask themselves, what will the dog pound look like compared to last season?
Year after year I hear Browns fans saying, “I really think were going places this year”, only to be let down time and time again. For the first time I can personally remember, I’ve actually heard numerous people be somewhat pessimistic recently. I’m hear to try and turn that pessimism into optimism one last time. In this article I’ll be addressing the Browns defense and what we should expect.
So far we know that the Browns defense has lost two big-time contributors in D’Qwell Jackson and T.J. Ward, but both were quickly replaced by Donte Whitner and Carlos Dansby. I personally believe they can be seen as equivalent replacements if not slight upgrades depending on who you ask. They also signed Isaiah Trufant to add depth at the cornerback position.
As of this writing, the team sits with solid starers such as Joe Haden, Phil Taylor, Paul Kruger, Donte Whitner and Carlos Dansby. Three players who I believe can make a bigger impact this season are Desmond Bryant, Barkevious Mingo and Buster Skrine.
Last season Desmond Bryant was effected by irregular heart beat complications and has since had a surgical procedure to correct the problem. Having him back at 100% should be a great improvement over last years performance.
Another player who I hope will make a big improvement over last years performance is Barkevious Mingo. Last year Mingo recorded a total of 42 tackles and 5 sacks. Mike Pettine was able to coach 3 players to double digit sacks last year in Buffalo and aims to put some more LB’s on Mingo during the off-season. Both of these factors should help Mingo improve in the 2014 season and show why he was the 6th pick in the draft last year.
Last is Buster Skrine. A lot of people will point out that he got picked on last year opposite Haden. Although that might be true, if Skrine was moved to the nickleback position he would make an immediate improvement on covering the slot receiver. Skrine also earned the third largest bonus from the teams performance based pay program and although he had a few less tackles, he did pick up an INT and a sack which he had not done the previous year.
Two other honorable mentions are Tashaun Gipson and Craig Robertson. They had the two largest performance based payouts on the team. Tashaun Gipson recorded a combined total of 95 tackles almost tripling his 33 combined tackle total from the prior season. He also grabbed 5 interceptions. To put that into perspective, Donte Whitner recorded a combined 73 tackles and 2 interceptions last year. Not too shabby huh?
The Browns will look to improve their secondary in the draft which will have a large abundance of talent available around their second pick such as Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett or Bradley Roby. Darqueze Dennard could even fall to them if they get lucky. If they choose to wait on getting another cornerback until a little later in the draft they could still get someone like Lamarcus Joyner. Any of these guys would be a great addition to the team to play opposite Joe Hayden.
They already have Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger but Kruger won’t be around forever. I wouldn’t complain if they got Khalil Mack with their first pick in the draft. I also wouldn’t complain if they Drafted Jadeveon Clowney if he fell to the 4th pick. One last prospect that could make a difference for the team this coming season is Deone Bucannon who could be picked up if he falls a little in the draft.
There’s no way I believe the Browns would use their first 4 picks all on defense, but no matter who they take in the draft, the Browns are setup to make some big changes in their defense this coming season. That’s saying a lot considering the Browns 2013 defense was the best defense they’ve had since the team came back in 1999.
Last year the Browns defense ranked 7th among teams in rushing yards allowed and 8th in passing yards allowed. Now all the Browns need is an offense that can move the chains a little more to allow the defense a breather, but I’ll save that discussion for next week.
If you’re one of those long time Browns fans that has finally started to give up hope and your tired of hearing, “this is our season”, this isn’t the year to give up. I truly believe that we will have a whole different breed of animal in our dog pound come this fall.