Browns were awful in zone, so why did they stick with it?

Cleveland Browns v Washington Commanders
Cleveland Browns v Washington Commanders / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Joe Woods has had a lot of success in the NFL and even has a Super Bowl ring to show for his efforts. However, it was clear that it just wasn't working for him with the Cleveland Browns. That's why a change had to be made.

With that change comes new hope and one hope is that they'll allow the secondary to again play to its strength. For example, Mina Kimes pointed out that they were 24th in EPA per play when their secondary was in zone coverage but one of the best in the league when playing man-to-man.

Now, the natural response here is to ask what Woods was thinking, but it's actually rather clear when you dig into it. Despite cornerbacks such as Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, and Martin Emerson who were excellent in one-on-one coverage, Woods didn't trust his safeties.

We can argue all we want that Woods should have kept pushing the envelope but the truth was, he believed the consequences for mistakes in man coverage were far greater than in zone — and it's hard to argue that when we saw the meltdown against the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, and Atlanta Falcons.

For Woods, he was choosing the least of two evils — and while he probably chose wrong, the lack of trust in the deep coverage ability led to this decision. And to be fair, it appears the staff didn't feel any better with those safeties even under a new defensive coordinator.

Not long after the Browns hired Jim Schwartz, that secondary got a facelift. They didn't try to re-sign Ronnie Harrison and John Johnson III was also let go. In came Juan Thornhill and Rodney McLeod, who are both far superior in deep coverage.

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Their addition will allow Schwartz to play man coverage and to do so more confidently.