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The Sunday Five: Browns' Defense Needs to Improve in Goal-to-Go Situations, and the Case for Heckert

The Cleveland Browns' goal-to-go defense has to improve, as they've allowed touchdowns 87.5% of the time.
The Cleveland Browns' goal-to-go defense has to improve, as they've allowed touchdowns 87.5% of the time.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In today's edition of "The Sunday Five," we take a look at how the Cleveland Browns have struggled in goal-to-go situations this year, the case for Tom Heckert remaining the Browns' general manager, my thoughts on the debut episode of NFL Road Tested, and more.

Bullet_mediumConsidering how few points the Kansas City Chiefs have put on the board this season, I probably shouldn't worry too much about the Cleveland Browns' goal-to-go defensive success rate. For the sake of discussion, let's consider the fact that the Chiefs did very well under Brady Quinn in goal-to-go situations last week -- they had touchdowns all three times they got within ten yards of the end zone.

There have been three games played since I did my midseason review for the Browns' defense. One of the statistics that I failed to highlight in that post is the fact that the Browns' goal-to-go defense in 2012 has been awful. The Browns rank 31st in the league in that category, yielding a touchdown an astounding 87.5% of the time. I've had no confidence in the Browns' defense at stopping teams in that area this season because of that. This is a drastic change from a year ago, when the Browns were ranked 1st in the league in this category, only yielding a touchdown 42.31% of the time.

Bullet_mediumOver the past three games (i.e. since their bye week), the Browns have been faced with two goal-to-go situations. The first one was a 2-yard touchdown run on first down by the Cowboys' Felix Jones. The second one was the 1-yard bounce-out touchdown run that Chris Rainey had for the Steelers. Both of the Raiders' touchdowns came from outside the red zone last week.

With the Browns' defense at full strength now, particularly with Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin back, I'd like to think our success rate in this area can be better over the final four weeks. However, the Browns could really use a linebacker to step up in these situations, like Chris Gocong did in 2011.

Bullet_mediumI have heard a lot of rumors about Michael Lombardi possibly coming to Cleveland, and I've also heard a rumor that it won't happen. Right now, I don't need to talk about the Browns' general manager position: I'd rather sit back and watch an improving team, behind the likes of Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Greg Little, Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mitchell Schwartz, and Josh Gordon. That doesn't even mention some of the other solid players like Buster Skrine, Jason Pinkston, and Jordan Cameron, or big-time players like Joe Thomas, D'Qwell Jackson, and Ahtyba Rubin.

What's that, you say? Those players were either drafted or given contract extensions over the past three seasons? Let's see here...who was the general manager during that period. Ah, I see -- one Thomas Heckert. The reason I don't need to talk about the general manager position is because the talent this team has secured speaks volumes about Heckert. It shouldn't even be a question that he should stay, and I hope that Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner see that.

Bullet_mediumI was able to catch the debut episode of NFL Road Tested, featuring the Cleveland Browns, on Friday night. Any special feature involving the Browns is going to have me giddy, and it was interesting to see the behind-the-scenes workings of covering the field, prepping for the national anthem, getting the game balls ready for the quarterbacks and kickers, the assembly of the equipment, and the inside access to other elements (i.e. Pat Shurmur being prepped for certain things), even if they were segmented into short tidbits. I was a little confused by the fact that I thought this show was supposed to explore how a team travels on the road, and yet this whole episode dealt with a home game against the Ravens. Maybe the next couple of episode will look at more of the travel arrangements and such. Either way, I'll be tuning in for the duration of the season.

Bullet_mediumWith CB Dimitri Patterson expected to return this week, along with safeties Usama Young and Ray Ventrone back in action at practice this week, the coaching staff will have to make some adjustments to the inactives list this week. Thankfully for them, the changes to the inactives list really don't have to be too drastic. Here are my seven projections for this week: RB Brandon Jackson, FB Owen Marecic, WR Josh Cooper, OL Jarrod Shaw, DL Ronnie Cameron, CB Trevin Wade, and S Eric Hagg.

Out of the players on that list, Jackson, Cooper, Shaw, and Cameron would be the four repeat listings from last week's game against the Raiders. I am expecting Patterson, Young, and Ventrone to all be active, and it's really a win-win situation for Cleveland. Patterson is the trusted third corner, so he can definitely be a major contributor over Wade, who only sees one snap per game usually. Ventrone's special teams abilities would be much favored over Marecic's. The only questionable one is Young-for-Hagg. Just before his concussion, Young had lost his starting job to Tashaun Gipson, and Hagg was actually starting to get some reps as a fifth or sixth defensive back in certain packages. There's a chance that Hagg's recent play could earn him the nod over Young; we shall see.