Watching the Cleveland Browns this preseason, I couldn't help but to think to myself that this was the same old defense: bland, unaggressive, and uninspired.
After Adrian Peterson's first run up the middle netted less than a yard, and the Browns defense forced a three-and-out, I couldn't help but think to myself that this defense was not the same old defense.
The Browns, of course, went on to lose (and it wasn't close), but there were some signs of promise, especially on defense. Yes, the Browns gave up 225 total rushing yards, and yes, Adrian Peterson had three rushing touchdowns, but I had to be impressed with the improvement of the defensive line.
Shaun Rogers, for one, had a solid outing with four solo tackles to go along with a sack. Coach Mangini said that he didn't need to see Rogers play in preseason to know what he brings to the game, and its evident that Rogers didn't need to play in preseason to be able to do it.
The defense also had 4 sacks for the day, nearly a quarter of the Browns' sack total for all of last YEAR! One of the sacks came from Rogers himself, the other three were made possible bacause the Minnesota offensive line was too busy with the Cleveland D-line to pick up the blitz.
It seems that the D-line finally is playing like a 3-4 D-line should. With the big bodies finally present to eat up blockers, the line made rushing yards through the middle hard to come by and created good pressure on QB Brett Favre. The defense forced three-and-out three times in the first half, and held the best running back in the league to 25 yards on nine carries.
Of course, we all know how badly the defense was gashed in the second half, and the amount of yards on the ground it gave up, but that seemed to be more as result of the defense wearing down than poor play. The Vikings made excellent halftime adjustments, and began creating plays with outside runs and screen/swing passes. The defense needs to improve its open field tackling, especially the linebackers, but being on the field for two thirds of the game doesn't help. Brady Quinn and the rest of the offense couldn't keep the defense off the field, and the end result was a big day for Peterson and the Vikings.
The play of the defensive line gives hope, however, that with a little rest, and better support from the linebackers and defensive backs, the defense can make huge improvements over last year.
The defensive line needs to continue to play aggressively, and must continue to close running lanes and create pressure in the backfield. As long as the line can force plays to the outside, the rest of the defense should be able to make plays. However, the entire defense needs to improve its play in the open field.
Look for the D-line to continue to plug the middle next week against Denver. The line as a whole is finally playing as a unit, and should occupy blockers enough to allow the linebackers to make plays on a new Denver offense. Shaun Rogers should have another big day against the Broncos, and if the line can improve its sideline to sideline play, the Browns could have a great defensive game, and, hopefully, a win.