4 Moves Rob Chudzinski Must Make to Get the Cleveland Browns Back on Track
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Chudzinski is the next head coach for the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns have hired former Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as their 14th fulltime head coach, a source told The Plain Dealer tonight.
Now despite Chudzinski and Norv Turner being offensive-minded coaches, Cleveland must also focus on defense. Given that Cleveland is one of the youngest teams in pro football, patience must settle for Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson to develop.
At the same time, only so much can be fixed during the course of one offseason. Fortunately for the Browns, a new era does provide more promise than the last.
Draft a CB in Round 1
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
The Browns need to find another shutdown corner to line up opposite of Joe Haden.
Holding the No. 6 pick in the upcoming draft, Cleveland can address this a few ways.
One is to wait on Alabama's Dee Milliner and hope for him to be available when they select. Should Milliner get picked prior to Cleveland's number though, reaching for Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks or trading down is a feasible decision.
Either would be bold, because Banks has top cornerback talent as he played with much consistency in college. Having recorded 221 tackles, defending 41 passes (15 picks, three taken back for touchdowns) and forcing five fumbles, his field awareness and instincts are impressive.
For certain would Banks be a reach in the Top 10, so trading back at getting an additional pick is also a good idea. Given that the Browns don't have a true second-round selection after 2012's supplemental draft, moving back to shorten the reach and add some picks would cover all idealistic bases.
Mid-Round Draft Picks
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The need for another linebacker would significantly enhance the Browns' front seven.
Stanford's Chase Thomas fits to a T.
Presenting excellent size, instincts, and reliable tackling skills, Thomas possesses the overall talent to play a 4-3 outside 'backer or 3-4 inside the 'backer. While with the Cardinal, Thomas collected 193 tackles between 2010 and 2012 with 23.5 sacks and eight defended passes.
He also forced nine fumbles throughout his collegiate career.
The guy can pass rush, shield in coverage against tight ends at the intermediate level, and clog running lanes at the line.
Another mid round selection of strong consideration must be a running back.
Current ball-carriers Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya enter 2013 as free agents, and Montario Hardesty has proven to be a reliable No. 2 back. Still needing more talented depth, a prospective rookie such as UCLA's Johnathan Franklin or Oregon's Kenjon Barner would suffice.
Each are explosive, laterally quick and will get downhill and make plays out of the backfield.
Land Free Agent Connor Barwin
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
This may appear more fantastical at first glance, but Cleveland pursuing Connor Barwin isn't that far out of reality.
For one, Barwin is a free agent this offseason and is the best rush linebacker on the market.
The Browns are also likely to switch to a 3-4 defense, a source said, which means defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is probably gone. As for a new general manager to work alongside Chudzinski, the Browns have been eyeing Kansas City Director of Pro Personnel Ray Farmer.
Well the Houston Texans run a 3-4 scheme and Barwin is only in his fourth season.
Receiving increased playing time in 2011 when Mario Williams was out, Barwin logged 11.5 sacks and seven defended passes with 47 tackles. The current season hasn't been as productive regarding numbers, but that's also because of the stronger impact from J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed.
Cleveland, however, needs a standout pass-rusher to complement the rest of its defensive line. Provided the Browns spruce up the secondary and Barwin's potential with Cleveland would hit another level.
Hire John Pagano as Defensive Coordinator
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Previously mentioned was Norv Turner being expected to become the Browns' offensive coordinator.
Factor in the need to pursue Connor Barwin, and bringing in John Pagano as defensive coordinator fits perfectly.
The Chargers ran a 3-4 system under Pagano in 2012, and San Diego was better defensively than given credit. Ranking No. 6 against the run, Pagano's defense only allowed a 61.1 completion percentage and recorded 38 sacks.
Looking at how much offenses throw the rock these days, giving up just above the 60 percent threshold isn't bad for opposing completion percentage. Additionally, San Diego ranked No. 9 in overall defense despite not receiving much help from the offense.
Cleveland provides an immense amount of young and promising talent. Include its draft position and current personnel, Pagano would flourish with the Browns.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.