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What can we expect from our new defensive coaching squad?

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(Flashback to 2005 offseason)

"He's not like most first-time coaches," said Joe Linta, Crennel's agent. "He's a guy with more credentials.

"Although he hasn't been a head coach, he has five Super Bowl rings. The Browns aren't just getting a coach.

"They're buying into a program. They are getting 25 years of experience and knowledge."

The 2005 off-season was sweet.  Butch Davis era was done.  The Cleveland Browns needed some new blood.  The Browns had hired a hot-shot young GM from Baltimore in Phil Savage.  The Browns decided that the newest era of the Browns needed a defensive make-over.  Savage went looking for a defensive coach that ran his style.  Phil Savage set his gaze on New England.  Year in, year out the Pats seemed to have good defenses.   Yes New England had a so called "defensive genius" as a head coach, but he couldn’t do all that by himself could he?  He had the help of long-time assistant Romeo Crennel.  Crennel was chosen to be the 11th head coach in the history of the Cleveland Browns.  We were promised a new team.  We were promised a 3-4 defense that would mirror Baltimore and New England.  We signed Jason Fisk.  We drafted Antonio Perkins.  We were about to win a crapload of football games.  Times were good. 

(Present day)

Romeo Crennel stunk.  Todd Grantham was a power hungry fool.  Jason Fisk sucked.  Perkins never played.  Belichick was that smart good at cheating.

Ummm…. Let’s try this again.

We are now being promised a new brand of defense.  Once again we dip our collective toe into the Belichick coaching tree, but hopefully in a different end.  Romeo Crennel was all about the bend but don’t break defense (BBDBD).  Make the offense play well in order to beat you.  If your offense is a good one, the BBDBD may be the best way to attack an opposing offense.  Look at 2007, our offense was great, so the BBDBD was able to give us 10 wins.  Romeo looked like a genius.

I hate BBDBD.  I crave an attacking defense.  I want a defense that brings the blitz and forces the offense to game plan to the defense.  When did you ever think an opposing OC looked at our Romeo Crennel’s defense on tape and worried?  Romeo’s defense was bland, no varying our front 7.  Wimbley lined up at the same position down in and down out.  We rarely brought DB blitzes, and when we did, they never seemed to get to the QB.  Our best defensive playmakers would be in the same spots every down, and the same players would rush.  It’s not hard to see why this brand of defense was short on making big plays. 

So, we start again on defense.  Things are not nearly as poor as they were in 2005.  We have a bad ass at NT.  We have a CB that could be a man-to-man demon.  We have a tackling machine at MLB.  We have a plan.  We have some pieces to build around.  We are no longer depending on Jason Fisk and Simon Fraser for minutes. 

In the NFL, the most valuable defensive position is a DT that can push the pocket and control the LOS.  With Shaun Rogers, the Browns may have the NFL’s greatest athletic force.  Albert Haynesworth, a great player in his own right, does not have the pure athletic talent that Shaun Rogers possess.  Haynesworth just became the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.  Great defenses have great DT/NT; for example, Hampton, Wilfork, Williams Wall, Jamal Williams, Haynesworth and Ngata.  All of these players teams were at or above .500 last year.  The Browns wasted a Pro Bowl season out of Shaun Rogers.  I don’t think that Mangini and Ryan will make that same mistake.

Eric Mangini cut his defensive teeth under Bill Belichick.  He has named Rob Ryan as his defensive coordinator.  Bryan Cox, former bad boy LB under Parcells and Belichick is now the D-Line coach.  Matt Eberflus, former University of Missouri DC, is now the LB coach.  Jerome Henderson was a DB under Mangini in New York in 1997-98, is now the DB coach in Cleveland.  How can these guys make our defense any better?


Freaking sweet. 

Rob Ryan, son of legendary defensive wizard Buddy Ryan, has a long history of good defenses.  In the NFL he has coached with Mangini in New England where Ryan was the LB coach.  In New England he had the knack of getting pressure from his entire defense.  Ryan was named DC in Oakland in 2004.  Ryan had his problems in Oakland.  He clashed with Lance Kiffin.  He was accused by Kiffin for going behind his back to Al Davis and changing defensive game plans.  It wasn’t all bad in Oak-town.  Ryan actually somehow made really bad team look decent on defense at times.

In 2004 the Raiders defense was much better against the run.  They went from 4.6 YPC in 2003 to 3.7 YPC in 2004. Good enough for 7th in the NFL.  Rob Ryans best LB that season was Danny Clark.  Needless to say, Ryan wasn’t working with much that season.  In 2005 the YPC went up to 4.0, same for 2006.  In 2007 the rush defense fell apart and fell to the worst in the league at 4.8 YPC.  Last year Raiders stayed crappy at 4.7 YPC.  How did the Browns stack up?

Oakland Cleveland
2004 3.7 YPC* 4.3 YPC
2005 4.0 YPC 4.2 YPC
2006 4.0 YPC 4.4 YPC
2007 4.8 YPC 4.5 YPC
2008 4.7 YPC 4.5 YPC

Some quick facts.  2004 was the first year that Oakland ran a 3-4 defense, it didn't last long though.  2005 and 2006 the Raiders ran some 3-4 but mostly switched back to 4-3 looks.  It is nice to see that Ryan was able to use the 3-4 to stop the run.  Looking at these numbers, I really wonder why they switched.  In 2007 Lane Kiffin was hired and brought his fathers Tampa-2 style defense to Oaktown.  Ryan has run almost every defense under the sun, but he got his best results against the run with the 3-4.  Sweet.  Remember, the Browns weren’t facing LaDainian Tomlinson twice a season in his prime or Larry Johnson twice a season.  That can kill a team’s average.  It looks like Ryan will be able to help the rush defense for the Browns if he can revert to his early Raider days.  I’m not saying that Ryan will be able to work miracles, but with the talent that the Browns have at NT and the tackling machine of DQ, I am thinking we could get the YPC down in the 3.8-3.9 area.  That would be a huge help in getting this defense in an attacking mode.

Against the pass, Rob Ryan is a throwback.  He loves man-to-man (no wonder Al Davis loved the guy).  He had the NFL’s greatest man-to-man (MTM) CB in Nnamdi Asomugha.  That makes it pretty easy to put your CB’s on an island.  Mangini has also been a fan of MTM.  He had Darrelle Revis who is quickly developing into a force.  I think that the Browns have a young CB in Eric Wright that could turn the corner into an elite level CB that is able to go toe to toe with the top WR’s in the NFL.  I think that Ryan is a great coach for Wright.  After seeing how Nnamdi prepares for Sunday, Ryan should have a great insight into making Wright a great CB.  If Rob Ryan is going to throw our young CB’s into MTM coverage, we could face some huge breakdowns.  I’m willing to risk it if that means that the Browns defense will be bringing those extra defenders in high pressure situations.  Jerome Henderson is the DB coach.  He has had little experience in coaching but worked under Mangini in NY and helped with the development of Revis.  Can Rob Ryan turn Elam and Pool into safeties that can play MTM and be the last line of defense?  Can Wright and McDonald/Hood turn into capable CB’s?  After all, DeAngelo Hall couldn’t handle the pressure and fell apart and was shipped out. 

Rob Ryan has had experience working with talented OLB in a 3-4 in NE.  In Oakland Ryan was forced to use mostly a 4-3.  He was able to turn Derrick Burgess into a sack machine.  This unique background gave Ryan the ability to coach both defenses and decide which defense best suits his personel in Cleveland.  I think we can all agree that the 3-4 would be the best approach.  Ryan also caused a stir when he and Mangini mentioned that the Browns will be running the 46 defense invented by his father.  In case you have no idea what a 46 defense is, Rufio gave a great breakdown a little while ago.  Shorthand version is the 46 defense uses safeties and movement of LB’s to create massive disorganization amongst the offense.  When it is run correctly it is a sight to behold.  Watch the Baltimore defense when it is running on all cylinders.  It is fun to watch (unless it is against the Browns).



Those are not isatoners...

Bryan Cox is the new DL coach.  Outside of Ryan, I am most pumped about Cox.  He is a bad man.  He was a player that you hated when your team played against him.  He has experience getting to the QB (He had 14 sacks his 2nd year in the NFL) and his played all over the field in a 3-4.  He is experienced and knows how to use his hands to shed blocks, something our defensive players need to learn ASAP.  To be honest, Cox is here to kick some ass.  He doesn’t handle underperformance well.  He was all over his D-Lineman during the OTA’s.  He is a screamer and in your face kind of guy.  In other words, if Corey Williams doesn’t get his act together under Cox, he may never in a 3-4.  D-Lineman in a 3-4 are glorified blockers for LB’s.  Great 3-4 linemen not only collect blockers but also make plays on the other side of the LOS.  Rogers is a great one.  I think that Williams has the talent to be a very good DE, but he has to show it now.  I get excited when I think about lining Rogers over the Center with Williams over a guard and a blitzing ILB over the other.  That means Rogers is one-on-one with a center.  I cannot think of any Center in the NFL that could handle Rogers alone.

I do not think that the Browns have a great defense.  I think that they have the talent to be a good too very good defense.  Wimbley will have to rebound into a great pass rusher.  He has the talent, but he needs to add new moves and get a mean streak.  Wimbley should be following Bryan Cox around at all times learning from the veteran coach.  We here at DBN have talked about DQ being a tackling machine, but he needs to be making the big plays.  Maybe adding some big plays to his normal 10 tackles a game.  We will find out in a hurry if Elam and Pool are able to run this defense.  From everything that I have read Mangini loves to use his safeties in confusing offenses.  Pool and Elam are young, but both very talented.  Elam should have a great leg up with experience playing for Mangini in his system. 

Mangini and Ryan will make this defense attack.  The Browns will be a fun watch one way or another.  We could be watching a playmaking defense find its stride, or we could be watching a tire fire.  I can’t remember the last time I was excited to see a Browns defense.  This year is different.  We have a bad man at D-Line coach.  We have a mad man at DC.  I can’t wait.  We will attack on defense.  Be warned Minnesota, your first.