Stopping the Run on Defense
On the other side of the football, the Cleveland Browns defense continues to struggle with stopping the run. In the past few off-seasons, the Browns made moves to improve the defensive line. They drafted Danny Shelton in the 2015 draft, they let free agents, such as Jabaal Sheard and Atyaba Rubin leave, while adding guys such as Randy Starks. The font office also traded Phil Taylor and Billy Winn for conditional draft picks. The hope was that these moves would strengthen the Browns defensive line.
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But since 1999 stopping the run has been a problem for the Browns. Opposing running backs like Ronnie Hillman, Latavius Murray, and now Todd Gurley of the St. Louis Rams have had career days against the Browns’ defense this season.
In the game against the Broncos last week, it seemed like the Browns started out well against stopping the run. Then they adjusted and got the speedy Ronnie Hillman in the backfield. It blew up everything the Browns had done well, and in a matter of what felt like 10 rushes Hillman was over 100 yards and the Broncos were driving up and down the field when Peyton Manning wasn’t throwing interceptions.
On Sunday, the Browns defense was gashed by Todd Gurley to the tune of 153 total yards and two touchdowns. There was a 48-yard run where if defensive lineman Xavier Cooper had made the tackle, Gurley would have been stopped short of the first down, and the Rams offense might have stalled.
Last week wasn’t won by Nick Foles and his 163 yards passing, nor was the prior week won by Peyton Maning and his 3 interceptions. It was the Browns inability to run the ball when they needed to, and the inability of the defense to stop the run when they needed to.
However, he took the wrong angle, missed the tackle, and the Rams were in business. With the score 10-6, the Browns were in the game early in the third quarter. There was hope that maybe just one drive could put the Browns ahead. Instead, the flood gates broke loose and Gurley began to run wild, scoring both of his touchdowns in the second half of the game.
So why the struggles and what can be done? Well, in the NFL, there’s no quick fix. In other leagues, if you need a 3-point shooter, a lock down defender, a big bat, or a starting pitcher, you’ll find options at the trade deadline. In the NFL, you don’t usually see teams making season changing moves. Thus, the Browns are going to have to find a way from within. Whether that is defensive coordinator Jim O’Neill altering his schemes, simplifying the game plan, or moving guys around to find better positioning, the Browns have to do something. They need to secure the edges and stand stout up the middle.
If the Browns continue to get gashed by the run on defense, and can’t run the ball on offense, teams will find ways to win. Last week wasn’t won by Nick Foles and his 163 yards passing, nor was the prior week won by Peyton Manning and his 3 interceptions. It was the Browns inability to run the ball when they needed to, and the inability of the defense to stop the run when they needed to. Each week the Browns should be getting better against the run, but it feels like they are getting worse. Thus why I pointed out, that regression is far from progression.
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