The Browns are having some issues on offense. Perhaps this is due to a new offensive coordinator, or new playmakers such as Odell Beckham, Jr., new players on the offensive line, and perhaps the lack of traded running back Duke Johnson, Jr.’s presence who was a good blocker and an excellent pass receiver.
Not the case with the defense, though. In the NFL’s official stats for the first two games, several familiar names keep popping up. There are two Browns’ players which are currently ranked number one in certain categories.
Browns’ middle linebacker Joe Schobert is listed as fifth in the league in total tackles with 21. With solid defensive play in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, Schobert had 13 tackles in the 23-3 victory over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. The fourth-year linebacker was everywhere all night and had several crucial stops and even caused a fumble that stopped the Jets best scoring drive.
Strong safety Morgan Burnett is also on the total tackles list with 12 while Schobert’s partner in crime linebacker Christian Kirksey has 11. Defensive end Myles Garrett has 10.
In the sack department, Garrett leads the entire league with five sacks. He finished last year at sixth in the league in sacks (13.5) and appears to be on his way to up his yearly total. So far, offensive tackles do not have an answer of how to stop his quick first step.
Defensive tackle Larry Ojunjobi is listed as tied for number 30 on the sack list.
The big name missing from the top sacker masters in the league is newly-acquired defensive end Vernon Olivier. With the New York Football Giants, Olivier was a constant disruption. Last season he had seven sacks. Other seasons he logged 8.5, 7.5 and 11.5 per season. Vernon also has only three total tackles so far.
Punting Helps Defense Too
Rookie punter Jamie Gillan appears in one defensive stat as well. He is listed as number one for punts downed inside the 20-yard line with eight. All eight kicks became fair catch plays which means his directional kicking game is pinning opponents down further down the field to aid in field position while the kick returners are not able to get any additional yardage. In fact, Gillan has had only one punt returned at all, and that was for five yards. And because of his abilities to stay in the field of play and aim within the goal line and the 20 yard line, his average per kick has suffered. But for pure defensive aspect, he is leading the NFL.
For his efforts, Gillan was named AFC Special Teams Player-of-the-Week for his play against the Jets.
As a team, the Browns defense is ranked number 7 overall. If you take out the fourth quarter against the Titans, this unit would easily be a Top-5 squad, and the reality is that fourth quarter burned them. Remember, halfway through the third quarter the score was just 15-13 when all hell broke loose. The defense has allowed 300.5 total yards a game - which is very good in today’s pass happy NFL. The New England Patriots are number one with 246.0 total yards a game, so the Browns efforts aren’t that far off from the top clubs.
The Browns defense has allowed the fourth fewest first downs per game but so far are the fifth most penalized. They have also tied with the Indianapolis Colts with the fourth fewest opponent’s offensive scrimmage plays per game (115) while the stats for yards per play the ranking is number 11 with a 5.2 average.
Passing yards per game, the Browns have allowed the fifth fewest with 192.5 yards per contest. However, teams are completing 67.3 percent of their passes which places the defense as the 19th ranked club in this category.
The defense overall is playing well under new DC Steve Wilks. The base defense he has most utilized is the 4-2-5 which has allowed Schobert and Kirksey to shine and make plays. Wilks is also using quite a few rookies such as LB Mack Wilson, CB Greedy Williams and FS Sheldrick Redwine.
Wilks is bringing lots of five and six man blitzes quite a bit which outmaneuvers the other team’s number of blockers. This has freed Garrett to not be double-teamed most times.
With all the horses up front for the Browns, the run defense would appear to be one of the league’s top units, however, they are ranked 14th with 108.0 yards per game so far but have allowed only one rushing touchdown.
What About the Rams?
All this should change after Sunday’s game against the juggernaut also known as the Los Angeles Rams. They are currently 21st in passing with only 224 yards per game average but seventh in the league in rushing (140.5). The Rams high rushing attack coupled with the Browns unexplained inability to slow the run will become a problem come game day. Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley is only averaging 80 yards a game with a lone touchdown, but has a 5.3 per carry average.
What is your opinion of the Browns defense so far? Can this unit keep up their high rankings? Is DC Steve Wilks using his personnel in correct formations? What defender do you think should be playing more?