The Cleveland Browns defense under DC Joe Woods the last three seasons lacked an identity. Well, a positive identity.
Woods’ defense was known for giving up a lot of yards on the ground and blowing coverages on the backend. Under the former defensive coordinator, the Browns played cornerbacks that were best at man coverage in a lot of zone. Safety John Johnson III looked great with the Los Angeles Rams as a box safety then Woods tried to use him as a centerfielder.
There are a variety of reasons Browns fans are excited that DC Jim Schwartz is in town but Woods’ struggles set the bar really low. Just being competent, a B-minus-level defense would be a huge upgrade in Cleveland this year.
With all of the added talent on the defensive line, expectations are much higher than B minus. Those expectations are deserved.
Safeties coach Ephraim Banda talked about playing more man coverage in 2023. Banda is very confident with his safeties, and the rest of the defense, playing this coverage as Schwartz focuses on “dominating the leverage” over and over again:
“Dominating leverage” key to allow safeties (and LB, CB) in Schwartz’s system.— Jared Mueller (@JaredKMueller) August 20, 2023
You can tell the teaching in the new system is going to be a key strength pic.twitter.com/G0EFD95EkR
While Woods’ defense had no identity, Schwartz’s is all about forcing offensive players where the defenders want them to be. Leveraging matching with what the rest of the defense is doing should allow the Browns defense to dictate where a throw goes.
On the backend, CB Greg Newsome is excited about how easy the defensive line will make things for the defensive backs. Newsome also noted that Schwartz’s focus on leverage is a key point:
If DBs lose leverage, Jim Schwartz isn’t gonna let it go pic.twitter.com/8Cz6IdMfhI— Jared Mueller (@JaredKMueller) August 20, 2023
A defense that actually makes sense would be a welcome sight for Cleveland fans. A defense that is actually dictating what the offense does could put the Browns in position to be true Super Bowl contenders.
For now, talk is cheap. We’ve seen some improvements during preseason games so far but until they match up with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1, there is still a lot to be excited about looking forward to.