The Cleveland Browns have reportedly found their next as defensive coordinator in former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks.
The Browns have yet to officially name Kitchens as the team’s head coach, but they are quickly filling out his staff, as former Vikings special teams coordinator, Mike Priefer, is expected to join the Browns in the same role.
Wilks spent one season as the Cardinals head coach, compiling a 3-13 record, and was one of the most surprising head coach firings this off-season.
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Wilks has been coaching in the NFL for 13 seasons, all on the defensive side of the ball. He started his NFL coaching career in 2006 as the Chicago Bears defensive backs coach. He was a defensive backs coach until 2017, when the Panthers named him the defensive coordinator.
In his one season as Carolina’s defensive coordinator, the Panthers finished the season ranked seventh in the league in total defense, allowing only 317.1 yards per game. They also finished 11th in the league in points allowed, giving up 20.4 points per game.
The Panthers pass defense ranked 18th in the league in passing defense, allowing 229.1 passing yards per game. The defense allowed 25 passing touchdowns and intercepted 10 passes. Wilks’ defense was much better against the run, allowing the third fewest rushing yards in the league. The defense gave up only 88.1 rushing yards per game.
Wilks runs an aggressive 4-3 defense that will blitz often. However, unlike in Gregg Williams’ aggressive defense, Wilks has his secondary primarily playing zone in the back-end. Williams typically had his corners playing press man coverage.
With Wilks, the Browns have an experienced defensive coach that can handle the workload without much input from the head coach. With Kitchens likely keeping offensive play-calling duties, having Wilks managing the defense will help Kitchens manage his time during game prep.
The Browns also interviewed Vance Joseph for the defensive coordinator position, but Joseph took the same job with the Arizona Cardinals. Kitchens was also reportedly ‘very interested’ in former Indianapolis Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano, but it is unknown if Pagano interviewed for the position.