Since the hiring of Mike Pettine the focus of the media and the Cleveland Browns has been on the offense. Who will play QB? Who will play next to Josh Gordon? Who will be the running back after a year of having no one at the position? Many on DPD, as well as FoS where this writer was doing Browns writeups earlier this off-season, were pounding the table for the Browns to improve their offense. When free agency was starting any writeup about a defensive addition, unless it was a cornerback, was met with derision. Any Mock Draft that spent a first 2 day pick on a defender was met with similar result.
Yet the Browns added Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby in free agency as well as Justin Gilbert, Pierre Desir and Christian Kirskey in the draft. That, along with the talent already on the roster, led NFL.com to pen that the Browns will be fueled this season by its defense and not the more interesting Johnny Manziel. The piece brings out a number of interesting points about Mike Pettine, the Browns and the plan for this up coming year.
“We were excited when we walked in here and had a chance to go back through last year’s tape,” Pettine said. “We were fortunate to lock up an elite corner in Joe Haden long term, and then to add in free agents Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby in the middle of the defense, and to already have here Barkevious Mingo, Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard to flank the defense. You also got guys like Phil Taylor and Billy Winn on the inside. We think, if things fall right and we build it the right way through training camp, that this group has a chance to be really special.”
“Really special” isn’t hyperbole. Dansby and Whitner are upgrades on the field as well as leaders at practice and in the locker room. Kruger will be a pass-rushing force under Pettine, while Mingo is a young stud with plenty of upside. And Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 335-pound behemoth up front, remains underrated.
As Pettine lays out the talent on the Browns roster the way he did it is not difficult to get excited. Haden, Gilbert and Skrine could lock down the secondary with Whitner. The free safety position, very important with Pettine, may be up for grabs with Desir possibly getting a look there. With the secondary in good shape the Browns have a number of players that can get to the QB as well as stop the run. Expect Taylor to have a huge season this year under Pettine.
On paper, the Browns boast a better defense than the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. I wrote that in a bold predictions column back on April Fools’ Day, and I feel even stronger about this opinion after the Gilbert pick.
Beautiful words to read for any Browns fans. Can they also contend with the Bengals and Ravens in the tough AFC North? If they are able to the running game, solid offensive line and creative Kyle Shanahan system could lead to a number of wins for the Browns this up coming season.
If you know Pettine and Shanahan, though, you know they always want to apply pressure on the opposition.
“But at the same time, we’re not going to be an offense that’s conservative,” Pettine said. “We’re going to attack people on offense, just as we are going to attack people on defense, as well as special teams. I think you have to have that mentality in this league if you want to be successful.”
Yet while the running game will be the focus the attacking mentality will be encouraging to fans. Using multiple formations, motion and taking advantage of the talent on the team, including Jordan Cameron, Andrew Hawkins, a stable of running backs and Miles Austin, should do enough to help the Browns compete on both ends of the field.
Do you think the Browns defense can carry them to a successful season even in the pass happy NFL of Today?