The Cleveland Browns are expected to play more zone coverage in 2019, but head coach Freddie Kitchens is not worried about the transition.
When the Cleveland Browns hired Steve Wilks this offseason to replace Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator, the hope was that keeping the defense in a 4-3 base scheme would be beneficial by keeping things consistent.
Both Wilks and Williams call aggressive defenses, so they had some basic similarities in their defense. But as expected with a coaching change, there are going to be many different philosophies.
One of the philosophy changes is how the secondary will play their coverages. Under Williams, the cornerbacks were playing a lot of press man coverage. For the most part, the corners played well in that scheme, especially Denzel Ward.
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On the other hand, Wilks has made his living with a zone pressure defense. His corners were often playing off the line of scrimmage and in zone coverage. However, when he was not calling plays last season as the Arizona Cardinals head coach, the corners played more press coverage.
If Wilks goes back to his knack for playing his cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage like when he was the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinators, there are concerns he will take away from the strengths of Ward and Greedy Williams.
Both Ward and Williams have the speed and athleticism to play press man coverage and stick on a receiver through routes. This allows both players to have a better chance to make a play when the ball is thrown their way. They also seem to be more comfortable playing in man coverage.
Following the second day of practices of rookie mini-camp, Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens was asked about if the coverage scheme will be an issue. But Kitchens made it known he is not at all concerned about what the scheme change will do – via ClevelandBrowns.com.
"“No. Our philosophy at cornerback is to play the defender and [their] guy doesn’t catch the ball. Hopefully, that is the way it was last year. I don’t know, I will let you judge that. I know Steve Wilks pressured almost half the time when he was a defensive coordinator at Carolina. If you pressure, usually it is zone pressure or it is a man pressure. It can’t be anything other than that.”"
It is possible that Wilks will adjust his scheme to the personnel on his defense. If that is the case, then he would break his trends as a defensive play-caller and use more man coverage. Should he do that, it would definitely be beneficial for the cornerbacks.
But no matter what, Kitchens is not worried about what tendencies Wilks has as a defensive coordinator means for the defense. In fact, it seems like more of a nonissue to Kitchens and believes Wilks will have the answers needed for the defense.