Cleveland Browns: How the defense stacks up to the rest of the NFL

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns added some key pieces to the defense, but still have a long way to go in becoming a great NFL defense.

The Cleveland Browns decided to make some big changes to the defense after a dismal season in 2016.

Ray Horton was fired and replaced by Gregg Williams, while Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, Jason McCourty and Calvin Pryor highlight the key additions on the field. There is also veteran talent in Joe Haden, Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton and others, but this team needs to prove that everyone can put it together at the same time to rise out of the basement of the NFL defensive rankings.

The Browns enter 2017 ranked near the bottom once again, and came in No. 29 overall in a recent list compiled in an article on NFL Spin Zone.

From the article:

"Even with that talent, they may not be great. Garrett is the only new addition expected to start on the defensive line and safety/linebacker Jabrill Peppers (also a first round pick this season) and former New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor are their only key additions that could start in the secondary. That’s not enough change for a team that finished second-to-last in yards surrendered and 30th overall in points surrendered."

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A lot of focus is on the new additions, but the Browns have talented players who just didn’t play all that well last season. Haden stands out, while someone like Collins got here so late when things were already so bad it is hard to say he can’t help this team in 2017.

There are also players like Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib who can build on solid rookie seasons. Ogbah emerged as a legitimate threat a year ago and should only have more opportunities now that Garrett will be wreaking havoc on the outside.

Next: Projecting the 53-man roster

The Browns obviously had a terrible season in 2016, but players were acquired who can jumpstart the team this season. If the starters can remain healthy and players like Collins and Haden play like Pro Bowlers, there is no reason why this Browns defense can’t rank in the top half of the NFL.