1. Tackling Cleanly
Again we look to new linebacker coach Al Holcomb, who is stressing the importance of tackling. It’s hard to find an area where Cleveland struggled more in 2018 than in tackling and Holcomb says the team needs to “re-teach” the technique.
He was asked specifically about middle linebacker Joe Schobert, who led the league in missed tackles last season but wouldn’t call him out. Instead, the coach continued to harp on working to get better as a whole.
"“Just have to re-teach it, every day. Every day, we are constantly re-teaching things every single day. The same things that we are talking about in late July and August, we are still going to preach throughout the entire season – fundamentals and technique.”” Holcomb said via Jeff Risdon of Browns Wire"
Holcomb said the biggest issue in 2018 was the players not closing the distance as well as taking poor angles. These are the kinds of things that can be taught — and corrected. For the current linebackers on the team, there’s plenty of incentive to improve in this area.
Schobert, for example, is entering the final year of his contract and surely wants to get paid. There’s also Christian Kirksey, who has been given a hefty contract but now has competition in Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson. Both rookies are much more affordable which could hurt Kirksey in 2020.
Having players behind the veterans pushing them is good for everyone. It keeps them all on their toes as they know someone young and hungry is willing to step up and do the job should they be given the chance.
As for the defense as a whole, cleaning up the areas Holcomb is preaching on could catapult them to a top-15 defense. They were able to make some splash plays in 2018, which included a lot of turnovers. Should they be good at the little things as well, this could be a good year.