Browns Still Need to Help Defense

There hasn’t been a lot of football to write about since the NFL draft occurred in April.  We try to stay with on the field stuff for the most part, and with the lockout being in place, that means no football to discuss.

But the billionaires that run the sport finally settled with the players, and training camps will open this weekend.

The days leading up to those opening will be filled with a flurry of player movement, as teams can start signing their own free agents today, and can start talking to both undrafted free agents and veteran free agents in the next day or two.

The Browns aren’t expected to be major players, but should look to improve the defense through this process.

Cleveland’s front seven is very thin, especially with the switch to a 4-3 alignment by new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron. 

Yes, GM Tom Heckert’s first two draft picks this year were defensive linemen in DT Phil Taylor and DE Jabaal Sheard, but the only veteran certain of a spot is Ahtyba Rubin.  It is doubtful that the Browns want to go into the regular season starting two rookies on the defensive line.

At linebacker, the Browns are projecting D’Qwell Jackson as a starter, the same Jackson that has missed most of the last two seasons with a pectoral injury.  Plus, another starter, Scott Fujita was injured last season too, and when he was out, the defense dropped off noticeably. 

Heckert has to be looking to add some depth to the front seven, because right now, Cleveland is awfully thin in that area.

There are questions in the secondary too, although at least two starters are in place in CB Joe Haden and S T.J. Ward.  Veteran Sheldon Brown will probably start somewhere, either at corner or moving to free safety.  So, there is one spot open.

It doesn’t seem likely that the front office will re-sign S Abe Elam, a holdover from the Mangini days, although Elam did pick up his play in the second half of last season.

Also, the Browns have a decision to make on CB Eric Wright, who suffered through a dismal season in 2010.  Look for the team to keep Wright and hope he rebounds from an off-season.

On offense, don’t look for too much action from Heckert.  He may look for an experience offensive lineman, since OT Tony Pashos has been injury prone the last few years, and they don’t want to count too heavily on rookie Jason Pinkston.  Remember that Shawn Lauvao, a rookie last year, probably would have started had he not been injured just prior to the season opener.

As for the position most fans fixate on, wide receiver, don’t look for any signings.  Once again, the Browns coaching staff and personnel people believe the current crew will be fine once they start to play in a professional passing game.

Everyone in Berea is high on second year wideout Carlton Mitchell, who barely touched the field last season for whatever reason.  Also, remember that Cleveland also used a second round pick on WR Greg Little, a big physical guy who can run after the catch.

The Browns may be active in the trade market, dealing some veterans who were favored by the previous regime for more draft picks in 2012.  It is apparent that Mike Holmgren and Heckert like to build through the draft and more picks mean more maneuverability.

Despite all the changes, it’s time for the Cleveland Browns to start winning football games.  A 5-11 or 6-10 record should not be acceptable.  The results have to start showing in the win column.

JD

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