New Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is known for getting the best out of his players. Will he have to change his scheme to get the best out of an underperforming defensive line?
The Cleveland Browns need to address their defensive line. The Browns failure to develop Tommy Togai, Jordan Elliot, and Perrion Winfrey, who did come on toward the end of the season, has left their new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz with questions in the middle of the defense.
What scheme has Schwartz employed in the past?
Schwartz employs a scheme that primarily utilizes defensive linemen in a double-gap technique. A double gap technique is when the defensive lineman fires out into the offensive lineman for the purpose of reading the offensive lineman’s technique.
The purpose is to discover if the offensive lineman is pass blocking, straight run blocking, zone blocking, etc. Once the technique is identified, the defensive lineman uses the proper countering techniques (rip, swim, bullrush, etc.).
Last season, Cleveland’s scheme had the defensive group playing a single-gap responsibility. A single-gap scheme utilizes each defensive lineman in a single gap. Their responsibility was to not allow the ball carrier through that gap.
Problematically, single-gap responsibility can be executed by a defensive lineman if they shoot a gap at the snap. Thus, a player could decide to employ a pass rush into the gap to control it. Thus, the famous “playing the run on the way to the passer.”
We all saw how that worked out for the Browns.
Will a double-gap scheme solve the Browns running game issues?
Historically, teams that employ double-gap schemes are excellent run defenses. The double-gap is an “old school” technique prominent when NFL teams primarily ran the football. The technique allows defenders to ascertain the direction of the play allowing them to converge on the ball carrier.
Cleveland only had one player utilize this technique last season — Jadeveon Clowney. Not surprisingly, Clowney was the best run defender for the Browns last season. No other defensive linemen employed this technique. It showed.
The rest of the defensive line room regularly employed a single-gap control technique. Myles Garrett has only employed a single gap control technique throughout his entire career. Of the above-mentioned three defensive tackles, only Togiai employed a double gap control technique in college.
The top priority for Schwartz heading into OTA’s will be teaching the defensive line room how to employ a double gap technique. How fast this technique can be learned and implemented will determine how well Browns can defend the run next season.
Will Schwartz adopt an easier defensive line scheme?
Any man who employs an old-school defensive scheme will not dumb it down for the players. The Browns’ defensive line will need to learn the new “old” technique if they want to be a part of Schwartz’s defense.
The double gap technique is a proven, time-tested, way of stopping the run and bringing a pass rush. The technique takes a while to learn and master. Given the Browns’ unfamiliarity with the technique, Schwartz will have to drill it into the players or bring in players familiar with Schwartz’s system.
Either way, it is doubtful Schwartz changes his scheme to accommodate the players in the building.