When Rob Ryan was hired to be the defensive coordinator in Cleveland last season, Browns fans knew that the culture of the defense had begun to change. A loud-mouthed, giant of a man, Ryan brought his fire and energy to a defense that was lacking in seasons past.
Ryan has since moved on to Dallas, but when the Brown's hired long-time NFL Coach Dick Jauron, they planned on focusing all of the energy that Ryan brought to the players into the new scheme that Jauron would bring.
Dick Jauron runs a 4-3 scheme—a transition from Ryan's 3-4 scheme—but the Browns defensive players have said that the transition has been easy just because the 4-3 is much more straight forward and easier to learn. Last season, the Browns surprised many teams simply by lining up in unusual formations, showing blitzes and then backing into coverage; sometimes they stood around and then jumped into position.
As we've seen in the first two weeks of the preseason, the Browns first-team defense has been able to swarm the backfield, producing fumbles and turnovers—something they began to do last season. Defensive linemen Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and Jayme Mitchell have gotten to the quarterback, making it much easier for an up-and-coming Browns secondary to be effective.
Veteran linebacker Scott Fujita—lost to injury late last season—is coming back to anchor a Browns linebacking corps who are more than comfortable with this new system. Fujita particularly loves the system for a guy like D'Qwell Jackson.
Fujita said, "I think a system like this is tailor-made for a guy with his skill set, his body type. It lets guys play fast. I'm talking about the hybrid Eagles/Bears defense. That's the kind of system I think he was born to play in."
This system could be a big plus for Jackson, who is coming off of two season-ending injuries, and needs a big season to regain his career.
In the offseason, guys like Sheldon Brown and Chris Gocong, along with Fujita, took a hold of the playbook and began to teach the guys around them more about the scheme. While in Philadelphia, Brown and Gocong learned the scheme, and are therefore very familiar with the system and able to teach it very well.
Joe Haden and the Browns secondary are also benefiting from the change. With a young group of defensive backs, the Browns secondary found Rob Ryan's system confusing. It was tough to learn and led to many mistakes. In Jauron's system, the Browns DB's are much more comfortable.
When the DB's are more comfortable with the blitzes and coverages, they are more apt to make big plays.
The NFL is going to be surprised with the Browns this season. A new system that benefits the current players and young guys can really turn the defense around. The Browns are going to come out firing, causing turnovers left and right.
With the amount of young talent and speed they possess, the Browns are only going to improve on last season's success. Jauron's system has been successful around the NFL for years, and could definitely flourish with the players in Cleveland.