There is a lot of blame to go around after the Cleveland Browns loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Rookie kicker Cade York was drafted to make both of those kicks. QB Jacoby Brissett was the team’s choice primarily because he doesn’t make stupid mistakes but he threw an inexcusable interception. The outside run to RB Kareem Hunt on fourth and one was bad given Brissett’s sneak success.
It is the defense that will/should get a majority of the ire. The Chargers came into the game barely able to run the football and without their starting left tackle. Cleveland got Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Taven Bryan back on their defensive line.
Those two things combined should have led to a dominating performance from the Browns run defense. Instead, RB Austin Ekeler rushed for 173 yards on just 16 carries and RB John Kelley added 49 yards on 10 carries.
Garrett, in his postgame press conference, noted that Los Angeles took advantage of some “soft spots” in the defense:
While Garrett ended his statement by taking responsibility as a part of the defensive line, it is clear he has concerns about the defense. His “soft spots” comments could be directed at specific players, units or the defensive scheme.
Cleveland’s front office hasn’t prioritized the middle of the defensive line in their first three years running the team. The linebacker position has valued speed over strength during that time as well. The personnel on the field is soft against the run up the middle.
The unit is often undisciplined. Game after game, whether in run defense or against the pass, players are out of position from where they should be. In this Chargers touchdown run, no one is in a position to set the edge, an unforgivable issue on the outside especially close to the goal line:
Garrett’s “soft spots” comment could also be pointed at DC Joe Woods and his scheme. Does the hulking defensive end believe that Woods doesn’t put players in a position to make plays and opens up soft spots week after week? Regularly, Woods had his cornerbacks playing 7 to 12 yards off of receivers making for easy completions and making it harder for the pass rush to get there or to have run support on the outside.
In the end, unless Garrett clarifies, we are left guessing as to who or what he thinks is soft. We can agree that the defense looks soft in its run defense and has all season. Is it the front office’s decisions? The coordinator’s system? The players’ failures on the field? The correct answer is probably all of the above.
Garrett sees some “soft spots” but can they stiffen up quick enough to not ruin the 2022 season?