Browns stock report: Defense improving heading into Week 16

Browns, Kareem Hunt. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Browns, Kareem Hunt. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns have finally found some momentum late in the season, as they’ve won three out of their last four games.

They’ve found a way to win these games because of their defense, which must be refreshing for fans who have been calling for the firing of Joe Woods. Let’s take a look at how these players stock was affected in Week 15.

Stock up: The Entire Cleveland Browns Defense

The Browns defense stood up in a big way on Saturday night as they beat Baltimore. It was the most complete defensive performance of the season by a large margin, as they held the Ravens to only three points in the win.

They also had three sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception throughout the game. For the first time all season, Cleveland’s defense looked active and dangerous when on the field. Myles Garrett was a consistent force getting to the quarterback, and Denzel Ward made an amazing play on an interception in the red zone.

Sure, the defense still gave up 198 rushing yards on over seven yards per carry, but they made the big plays when it counted. Regardless of their final record this season, it’s good to see the defense show some cohesion in a big divisional game. They’ve now given up an average of 14.3 points per game in their last four contests and will look to continue to improve as they face the New Orleans Saints at home on Saturday.

Stock down: Cade York, Kicker

After hitting the game-winning field goal in Week 1, the Browns thought they found their kicker of the future in Cade York. Since then, York has been one of the least effective kickers in the NFL, having only converted 69 percent of his field goal attempts.

York has undeniably become a liability in some games this season, such as in Week 5 against the Chargers, when Cleveland lost 30-28 while York missed two field goal attempts.

What fans must keep in mind is that lots of great kickers have had awful rookie seasons in the NFL. Daniel Carlson was recently cut by the Vikings in his rookie season in 2018, while Kevin Stefanski was the head coach in Minnesota.

Carlson is now one of the most effective kickers in the NFL on the Las Vegas Raiders, as he made the Pro Bowl last season. Younghoe Koo, who also made the Pro Bowl in 2020, was cut in his rookie season by the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017. The fact that York has one of the strongest legs in the NFL will surely give him another year with the Browns, and fans hope that he is able to take advantage of it.

Stock up: Browns coaching staff

Through 11 weeks this season, there was no doubt that head coach Kevin Stefanski and defensive coordinator Joe Woods were on the hot seat. The Browns were sitting at 3-7, while only a few players on both sides of the ball were truly performing to their potential. Since then, they’ve won three out of four games, bringing their record up to 6-8. Stefanski is making a strong case to give him another full season with Deshaun Watson under center, and that is likely what will occur.

Woods has also found a way to get some productivity on the defensive side of the ball, as players on all three levels have made improvements in recent weeks, including Myles Garrett, Deion Jones, Denzel Ward, and John Johnson III. It is yet to be seen if Woods gets another year as defensive coordinator, but it is becoming more likely with defensive performances like the one we saw on Saturday.

Stock down: Kareem Hunt, Running Back

This is certainly one of the most disappointing seasons of Kareem Hunt’s career. Through 14 games this season, Hunt has only 447 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. That comes out to about 32 rushing yards per game, which is the lowest total of his career, excluding his first season with the Browns in 2019. His snap count and carry totals have diminished as the season has continued, highlighted by his performance last week.

Hunt was on the field for a season-low 26 percent of snaps and only touched the ball five times. In fact, that 26 percent of snaps was the lowest of his Browns career, excluding games in which he sustained an injury. It’s clear that the use of Hunt in the offense has declined this season, and that may be a sign of things to come. Kareem Hunt will be a free agent this offseason, and it looks like the Browns are preparing themselves for an offense without him next season.