2011 Cleveland Browns Defense

The Secondary

Sheldon Brown – DB, Usama Young – FS, T.J. Ward – SS, Joe Haden – DB.

Probably the biggest worry currently in our defense is the left side of our Secondary. Brown is old, and showed signs of his aging last year. He didn’t get beat as much as Eric Wright did, but he didn’t make a case for himself to be the future starter of the Browns. Usama Young was a backup for the Saints. Not much is known about him, a big wild card. It’s a question if he will even start over Elam.

The biggest issue however, is a complete lack of depth. With Eric Wright going to Detroit, we’re pretty much stuck with Haden and Brown as the DBs. Either Buster Skrine needs to show up during TC, or the Browns need to grab a DB. Nothing splashy, but get a young, smart player to at least compete.

The secondary has the possibility of being pretty damn good. Haden and Ward are coming into their second seasons, and both played like permanent starters last year. Haden was all over the field, and Ward was hitting people like a certain long haired missile from the Steelers. Brown should hopefully be able to hold his own on the opposite side. The move of Ward from FS to SS will bolster not only our run defense, but our deep protection. Ward is sub-par in coverage, yet was the deep-coverage guy in far to many situations. Getting a true coverage guy like Young will help immensely. Whether or not he’s the future for the Browns at that position is to be seen, but he’ll certainly make an impact.

Linebackers

Chris Gocong/Kaluka Maiava – OLB, D’Qwell Jackson – MLB, Scott Fujita – OLB.

This group excites me. These are the old guys, the leaders of the defense. D’Qwell can really make a name for himself this year at MLB. Dude can tackle. Fujita is our captain, and though he is moving from inside to outside, he’ll still be that leader that the young defense desperatley needs. He’s got a ring, and with a defense whose average age is under 25, that’s a godsend.

The biggest question is who is going to start opposite Fujita. Gocong is a solid guy, but he’s an inside guy. Maiava is more suited for the position, but Gocong has more experience. One of the battles to watch during T.C.

The Line

Jaball Sheard – DE, Ahtyba Rubin – DT (Nose), Phil Taylor – DT, Jayme Mitchell – DE

Could we actually have a pass rush this year? Could we actually stop the run? A lot of it depends on these guys. They are all young and inexperienced, but the upside is huge. This line is exactly what you want a 4-3 line to look like. Great pass rushing ends, great run stopping DTs. Mitchell and Sheard both have the potential to be great pass rushers, and oh my god our DTs our huge. How Heckert pulled together this line from out of thin air is beyond me.

Most likely we will still have a sub-par pass rush. I’m not expecting much out of a rookie and an oft-injured talent. The biggest thing that will improve is our run-defense. Two huge motherfuckers in the middle, and one of the best tackling LBs in the league is no joke.

The Defense

Heckert has put together a great young package for Dick Jauron to work with. All I’m worried about is injuries. Players like Mitchell and Jackson have such a high upside, but can’t stay healthy. That seems to be the running theme with the team so far. Hardesty and our O-line fit in with this as well.

Injuries are a part of the NFL, and the truly elite teams have backups that can step in and perform just as well. We aren’t even close to being able to do that in terms of depth. The drop off of talent from starters to second stringers is pretty huge. If we stay healthy, the Browns defense could improve my leaps and bounds this year.

Cleveland Browns Predictions

These are my predictions for the 2011 Cleveland Browns and beyond. Writing this down as proof.

Colt McCoy will be an elite quarterback in the NFL.

These kinds of plays are the reason. Third down, under pressure, Colt always makes a play. He may not always get the 1st, but he at least gives the team a chance. Even more importantly, he doesn’t make a throw if there is no throw to make. No other Cleveland Brown quarterback has done this on a consistent basis in the new browns era.

While third down is the proving ground of NFL quarterbacks, the fourth quarter is where elite quarterbacks show what they are worth. In only his fourth game, Colt led the Browns down the field against the Jets to tie the game and send it into overtime. He even made the pass to win the game in overtime, Chansi Stucki just fumbled the ball.

Finally, he is just a natural born leader. It’s the first time in the history of the expansion era Browns have a QB who has had that command over the team like a Rothlesberger or a Flacco. The way players talk about him, the way the coaches talk about him, and most importantly his actions, are unlike any QB we’ve had in the past 12 years. Not since Kosar have we had that kind of player leading the team.

Colt isn’t just our long-term starter, he will be a star in the NFL.

Colt McCoy will struggle in 2011.

I’m not backtracking here, but just because he will be great, doesn’t mean he will be this season. As great as his play in the steelers/pats/saints/jets games were, he was pretty bad in the last two games of the seasons (1 TD, 6 INTs). He’s learning a new(ish, ran it at Texas) system, has a new HC, and it’s his first season as a full blown starter. He’s going to have 3-4 pretty fucking terrible games, but he’ll also have 3-4 amazing games.

The 2011 Cleveland Browns have a 50/50 chance to make the NFL Playoffs and will be the surprise team of the year.

Why 50/50? Because everything comes down to one game: Week 13 versus the Ravens in Cleveland.

Here’s the first 11 games of our schedule (Predicted Wins in bold, predicted Losses in Italics)

  • Bengals
  • @Colts
  • Dolphins
  • Titans
  • Bye
  • @Raiders
  • Seahawks
  • @49ers
  • @Texans
  • Rams
  • Jaguars
  • @Bengals
Just so we’re on the same page, I’m predicting that we will beat the Jags, Rams, 49ers, and Raiders off a bye, and lose to the Colts. Thats 4-1. So, out of Dolphins, Titans, Seahawks, Texans, and Bengals, can we go .500? of course we can. Any team in the NFL can go .500 against that. So that puts us at 7-4 with fives games to go:
  • Ravens
  • @Steelers
  • @Cardinals
  • @Ravens
  • Steelers

Ouch. We’ll probably beat the cardinals. That puts us at 8-4. Now, it will require 10 wins to make the NFL Playoffs. If we go 2-2 against the Ravens/Steelers we’re in. Normally that’s a tough call. This is why week 13 is so important.

Last season I predicted that if we were 4-5 by week 9 we would have a 50/50 chance to make the playoffs, but if we were 3-6 we were out. We were 3-6, because of fumble in overtime by chansi stucki in field goal range (Thus the life of a Cleveland Sports fan). After that we were fucking terrible. The week after the Jets game we lost with a +4 turnover differential. In football stats, if you are -4 in turnover differential, it is statistically impossible for you to win. The Jags still won. (Thus is the life of a Cleveland Sports fan). So much in the NFL is about momentum. The reason we almost (read: should have) beat the Jets was that we beat the Patriots and the Saints the prior two weeks. The reason we lost to the Jags in a statistically impossible scenario, was because we lost to the Jets.

Therefore, if we beat the Ravens in week 13, we will win one out of the next three games between the Browns and the Ravens/Steelers.

So why 50/50? Because we shouldn’t beat the ravens, but we’re at home, we’ll have momentum going into the game (like the Jets game) and well, because any given sunday…

Also because there’s a good chance that we’ll be better than 7-4 going into week 13 anyways. God our schedule is easy.

The 2011 Cleveland Browns will be ranked in the top 10 in Pass Defense.

This really isn’t a big shocker. Haden was nominated for Rookie of the Year and Ward is a great SS. Just from the improvement from those two players (and having them play a full year) we’ll jump from 18 to 10. If we sign a good FS? Look out.

The Browns won’t be completely fucking terrible against the run.

Rubin, Taylor, Fujita, Jackson, Ward. Two huge motherfuckers in the middle, one of the best tackling linebackers in the league (Jackson, who is now healthy, lead the league in tackles in 2008 as an OLB. He will be playing MLB in 2011), a superbowl winning defensive leader (Fujita, 2009 Saints), and arguably the best young SS in the league (who will actually get to play SS in 2011, he played mostly FS in 2010).

Our Defense will win us games through turnovers.

We were 8th in the league in interceptions last year. Joe Haden was tied for 5th in the league in interceptions, while only starting 6 games at CB (started first 10 as nickel back).

Greg Little will be nominated for Rookie of the Year

Will he be deserving? Maybe. He’ll mostly get there because of his situation. He knows the WCO, and is the prototypical WCO receiver. Big, runs routes well, physical, willing to run across the middle, and can break tackles. He’ll be the #1 in Cleveland in no-time. As much as I love Mo Mass he’s not that great after the catch, he isn’t nearly as physical, and he doesn’t know the WCO.

The Browns will have four pro-bowlers in 2011.

Haden, Thomas, Jackson, Cribbs. All deserving.

Heckert is the fucking man.

2010: Ward, Haden, Colt

2011: The Atlanta trade, Taylor, Sheard, Little, Cameron + great prospects (Skrine is a FAST motherfucker, he can run a 4.2!)

Saving this for now. I’ll update right before the season starts.


Why I love being a Cleveland Sports Fan.

One of my first sports memories is watching Game 6 of the 1995 World Series at a neighbor’s house. Indians versus the Atlanta Braves. David Justice’s HR. It was our first series in 41 years. All that disappointment and hope lost.

The worst part about the whole thing was that I don’t even remember the run up to the World Series, just the disappointment. The only things I remember about that season were: my mom barehanding a line drive foul ball that would have hit her in the face, and almost hit me and my cousin in the face;  my brothers favorite player was Bo Jackson (which I always thought was weird); and that Kenny Lofton was my favorite player (still is!). But no excitement, no thrill of victory.

Nine days after Game 6, Art Modell announced that the Browns were leaving Cleveland and heading to Baltimore. Talk about torturing a city. But that’s not all, here’s the highlights: The Catch, Curse of Rocky Colavito, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot (Three years in a row! Hat Trick!), David Justice ’95, Browns to Baltimore, Jose Mesa ’97, The Decision.

Don’t get me wrong, there has been excitement and happiness in Cleveland. If there wasn’t there would be no such thing as a ‘Cleveland Sports Fan’. That’s the thing about Cleveland sports: we always have one good team. The Browns in the 80s, Indians in the 90s, Cavs in the 00s, and interspersed good years along the way.

“The bad feels so bad makes the good so good”* as it were. The great moments are what keep us in. In recent memory there’s the 2007 Indians being up 3-1 against the Red Sox in the ALCS (we lost by the way) and Knat Game vs the Yankees, Lebron (Overtime – Game 5 2007 ECF, 45 – Game 7 2009 ECSM, the new “Shot” – Game 2 2010 ECSF), Colt McCoy’s 2 minute drill vs the Jets (we lost here too), Peyton Hillis. 2011 Cleveland Indians. 2011 NFL Draft day trade. Even as something as small as the Madden 12 cover feels so good to me.

I feel like many would scoff at this. “It’s kind of sad that you care so much about a Madden cover” was something I heard a lot during spring. I don’t think it’s sad, it’s something that resonates with Cleveland sports fans. There is a reason that we are “Believeland” (besides the fact that it fits). We have faith in our teams. We are loyal. And when we have an opportunity to show our support we go at it.

And that’s what makes those moments always special, there’s always something magic about them. Getting the 1st pick in 2003, the 2011 Indians, the Kardiac Kids, all those last minute, last second, just barely didn’t make it plays, make the times when it does happen magic.

*Local Natives – “World News” on Gorilla Manor.


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