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Browns Bye Week Overview: Part 5, The Defense

November 5, 2010
Jack Bacevice

The Browns defense in the first half has been a tale of two, um, I dunno what to call it cleverly. Let's say it's been a tale of what they do against the run vs. what they do against the pass. That matches up pretty well with the Browns defense experiencing the best of times (vs. the run) and the worst of times (vs. the pass).

The front seven has been pretty good overall. The defensive line has been solid despite at times resembling a MASH unit. However, Ahtyba Rubin has played very good football this season. He may be able to man the middle of the Browns 3-4 for years to come. Rubin is only 24 years old. A good nose tackle can be effective for a looongg time (see Gregg, Kelly; Hampton, Casey) because the biggest thing they need to do is plug up space. Often that is best accomplished by... occupying a lot of space. So being really big helps. Rubin, listed at 330 lbs., is big.

After sitting out training camp, Shaun Rogers is starting to round into form. He had his best game of the year against the Saints where he singled handedly created a pass rush on many plays, sometimes as the only down lineman. It's obvious that with key players getting up there in years, such as Rogers (31) and Kenyon Coleman (31) and Robaire Smith (32 and allegedly contemplating retirement), the Browns will need to get younger up front in the immediate future. For 2010 though, this group is more than solid.

The linebackers have been a unit that features roughly 7 guys (that count does not include special teams stud Blake Costanzo) who play big roles on Sundays. None is a superstar, but all are very effective and smart. When you have seven guys who are all quite capable and are all smart enough to always know where to be on every play, you can find yourself with a pretty good linebacker group. Credit needs to go to both the players and the coaches for putting in the work off the field to making sure this is a smart group. Two guys really standout to me in this group going forward, Chris Gocong and Matt Roth.

Gocong has been very solid in the middle of the defense for the Browns. He has made plays against the run and the pass. At a listed weight of 263 lbs., Gocong has nice size for a 3-4 middle backer. At 26 years old he has a lot of good years ahead of him.

Roth is an absolute monster. He may be the most powerful player on the team. Listed at 6'4" and 275 lbs., he is a large man to be standing up on defense. Roth has done well pressuring the quarterback and playing against the run. At 28 and with his skill set, Roth is right in his prime and playing at a high enough level to be starting for a very good, playoff caliber defense. At 28 years old I see no reason he can't sustain this high level of play for at least 3 or 4 more years.

Scott Fujita has proven to be a very shrew and solid offseason addition. It's impossible for an outsider to really measure how much Fujita's intelligence on the field helps the defense as a unit, but judging from the aforementioned mentally sound play of the linebackers it's safe to say Fujita is having a major positive impact there. While being (I imagine) something of a coach on the field, he has also found time to be productive with 44 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 force fumbles, and a pick.

Marcus Bernard also merits a quick mention. He seems to have a great knack for getting to the quarterback. Being only 25 years old, he can at the very least help as a situational pass rusher here for the forseeable future and perhaps even develop into a high quality 3-4 linebacker.

The secondary has not had anywhere near the success of the front seven. I'd prefer to focus on the positive though. T.J. Ward and Joe Haden.

Ward was a pick questioned by many as a reach (myself included). I'm happy to report I was as wrong as could be. Ward seems like a major find. He hits hard and always seems to find himself around the ball, regardless of whether the play is a run or pass. The biggest criticism I have of Ward through 7 games of his career is he drops interceptions. Even THAT is a veiled compliment, since it points out he manages to get in position to intercept passes and still manages to break them up. I thought his hit on Jordan Shipley was one of the dumbest plays of the year, but mostly because of the situation. It was 3rd and goal and when Ward made contact with Shipley the ball had already hit the ground (at least I am pretty sure it did). I certainly don't think it was a "dirty" play and I am quite certain there was no intent on Ward's part to do anything except make a good football play. Regardless, Ward is a playmaker. He could be big time here, for a long time.

Joe Haden has not had the immediate impact of Ward, but that isn't to say he hasn't had an impact. He seems to improve each week. He plays one of the most important positions in the NFL. Cover skills are only going to become more important as the league moves more towards protecting players and into a pass friendly league (which the NFL already is, pass friendly I mean). I think Haden will move into the starting lineup in the 2nd half of the season and won't relinquish the job until the tail end of this decade at the earliest.

Can you tell I'm optimistic?

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