The always-great Terry Pluto delivers some much-needed Browns' talking points on this late June, very much non-football related Sunday.
Pluto focuses his attention on the Browns' defense, which has received a lot of attention recently, thanks to the presence of new coordinator Rob Ryan, who has revealed that he wants to run multiple formations in an attempt to pressure opposing offenses.
Pluto's emphasis on the defensive reconstruction in Berea further highlights the need for the unit to essentially carry the team in 2009.
Terry Pluto - Terry's Talkin"
1. It was fun to hear new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan say: "We want to be multiple [defenses] and we want to have multiple players who can play different spots and cause confusion." That was his reputation as the defensive coordinator in Oakland, and the Browns need some creativity. Playing the bland, passive 3-4 seems to leave the defense on the field forever and does nothing to stop the run.
As a Browns fan who has watched Romeo Crennel's static defenses the past four years, which involve no pass rush, very few blitzes, and a frustrating reliance on deep zone coverage, I welcome any changes made by Rob Ryan for 2009.
I don't care which alignments the Browns use, although considering their personnel, it would make sense to use more four-man fronts, as long as the defense can actually pressure the opposing offense into making some mistakes.
For too long, the Browns' defense has solely reacted to what the opposing offense is doing. The Romeo Crennel era was an exercise in being two steps behind the opponent, which led to the team being among the worst defenses in the league, if not in terms of stats, then measured by ineffectiveness.
2. Will Ryan actually do that? The Sporting News rated the top 20 defensive coordinators based on interviews with scouts. They had Ryan at No. 18 with these comments: "He uses a fair amount of formations to keep opponents guessing. Look for a lot of different formations and movement within the Browns' 3-4 scheme, which will look a lot like brother Rex's hybrid scheme made famous in Baltimore. We will see a lot of press coverage by the cornerbacks and be aggressive, mostly using man-to-man. It is a fairly simple defense that relies on the guys up front to apply pressure while the back seven concentrates on coverage."
Well, that is the question. Regarding press coverage, are the Browns' cornerbacks capable of playing a more physical style?
Eric Wright seems built to play such a style, but the rest of the depth at the position is pretty weak heading into 2009. As long as the defense can generate some pass rush (easier said then done in Cleveland), then look for Ryan to have some flexibility in scheming.
Otherwise, he will have no choice but to resort to the Crennel style tactics of read and react defense.
3. For me people have said it's up to Ryan to revive the career of Kamerion Wimbley. Well, Ryan said they will move the outside linebacker to different spots, not just having him line up directly over the tackle as was the case last season. Former GM Phil Savage begged the coaches to be more creative with Wimbley, who is not a power-rusher. But the Browns didn't see to have any idea of how best to use the speed that helped Wimbley get 11 sacks as a rookie in 2006. In the past two seasons, he dropped to 5.0 sacks, then 4.0. His total tackles are up, but he has not been the pass rusher the Browns need.
Much like the fates of so many players throughout the roster, including Brady Quinn, Eric Steinbach, Jerome Harrison, Brodney Pool and others, this is truly Kamerion Wimbley's best shot at establishing himself in the NFL.
Let's hope that someone on the coaching staff helps Wimbley develop some techniques that allow him to take advantage of his solid speed and flexibility. Otherwise, everything that was previously stated will come true, as fans should prepare themselves for an entire season of watching David Bowens and Alex Hall.
6. Ryan on Rogers: "He is a tremendous physical specimen. He is so athletic for a big man. I've been around the best in football. I've been around Warren Sapp in college. . . . I coached Jamal Williams and Kevin Williams, a couple of decent All-Pro defensive tackles. . . . Shaun Rogers is tremendous. Absolutely tremendous. Any system that he plays in, he is going to be dominant."
Do the Browns currently have a "face of the franchise"? Who would the ideal candidates be?
As of now, I can only think of Joe Thomas, Braylon Edwards and Brady Quinn.
Although left tackle is an immensely key position for an NFL franchise, it is hard to suggest that Thomas is the face of the Browns. Braylon is Braylon—although in 2007, he was among the most dynamic players in the league. And of course, Brady Quinn has started exactly three games so far in his NFL career.
Could the face of the franchise be Shaun Rogers? Clearly, he is the most dominant player on the Browns roster. Also, he was probably the hardest working and most productive player throughout the lost 2008 season.
Looking ahead to 2009, all of the changes that Mangini and Rob Ryan are looking to make on defense will be established by the play of Rogers along the line. If the new coaching staff can further exploit Rogers' immense talent, the Browns' defense could be surprisingly improved.
8. There are real concerns about Corey Williams, who had trouble switching from the 4-3 in Green Bay to the 3-4 with the Browns last season. Ryan said: "It's hard to evaluate. I'd like to answer your question, but I can't at this time. I don't know the young man well enough to say how he's going to do...I'd like to tell you more about Corey Williams, but I don't want to lie."
As great as the Shaun Rogers trade appears to be for the Browns, the Corey Williams move represents the "swing-and-miss" mentality that ultimately cost Phil Savage his job in Cleveland.
And, of course, the unfortunate email exchanges with Buffalo fans...the frustration in running a 3-4 alignment is that most of the players who appear to fit in the system are mere projections. So far, it looks like Williams is not a good fit.
As for the massive contract he carries...let's hope that uncapped 2010 season becomes a reality. This is a mulligan the Browns should have no problems taking next year.
9. Along with wanting an upgrade at inside linebacker over Andra Davis, the Browns also signed Eric Barton to teach D'Qwell Jackson the nuances of the position. Both played at Maryland. Barton is 31, Jackson is 25. Jackson watched and admired how Barton played in college. They are connecting, and the new defense stresses leadership and "mental toughness" from the inside linebackers.
As much as Rogers is key to the Browns' defensive fortunes in 2009, Eric Barton is also a vital piece.
In making that claim, I have to shudder a bit, considering his age. If the Browns can get any sort of reliable contribution from Barton, then the linebacking corps could be elevated to an average status for 2009. If Barton gets hurt, or further shows his age, then D'Qwell Jackson will again lead the conference in tackles...which is not necessarily a good thing.
And perhaps a final word on the Braylon situation...
Braylon: I Never Took it Personally
Despite a rocky offseason where his name was perpetually linked to trade rumors, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards apparently wasn’t offended by the constant speculation about his future.
In the wake of not being traded to the New York Giants following a season where he led the NFL in dropped passes, Edwards says he’s not looking for a ticket out of Cleveland, according to Calvin Watkins of AOL Sports FanHouse.
“I never said I wanted to go,” Edwards told FanHouse. “The Browns tried to put a trade out there. It’s always about progress in any level of sport. It will always be business.
“Trades happen, releases happen, I never took it personal. They thought highly enough of me to ask for a lot and in doing so, the Giants couldn’t give the Browns what they wanted. It’s a business.”
If ever the Browns needed an emotionally healthy Braylon, this is the time.
As I've stated before, "as Braylon goes, so goes the offense." Considering that the Browns will feature a largely untested quarterback and several receivers who are either declining or brand new to the league, Braylon's play in 2009 will be key to the Browns' offensive fortunes.
I hate to sound like the doomsday prophet from the shores of Lake Erie, but this could be a boom or bust year for the Browns offense.
And by "boom", I'm setting the ceiling at "moderately adequate" and "bust" directly compares to the last 6 games of the 2008 season.
Now...let us pray.
By Cleveland Reboot
Blogger/SJ Contributing Author
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