When the Cleveland Browns missed the playoffs last season with a 7-10 record, their biggest problem, other than quarterback Deshaun Watson serving an 11-game suspension, was their defense.
They ranked 20th in points allowed and were particularly bad at stopping the run, ranking just 25th in rushing yards allowed and 29th in rushing touchdowns allowed.
Cleveland has a new defensive coordinator in Jim Schwartz, and analyst Mina Kimes pointed out how different their defense was in 2022 playing zone versus man-to-man coverage while saying she expects Schwartz to play more man-to-man defense.
Last year, when the Browns defense played zone they ranked 24th in EPA/play—in man coverage, they ranked 2nd and allowed the lowest QBR in football.
Expect new DC Jim Schwartz to call a more aggressive defense. pic.twitter.com/PcssAVOIVO
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) May 15, 2023
The Browns already have Myles Garrett, one of the NFL’s best defensive ends, as well as star cornerback Denzel Ward, a two-time Pro Bowler, but they made some notable additions this offseason.
They added Dalvin Tomlinson, a stud defensive tackle who should help shore up their porous run defense.
More recently, they traded for defensive end Za’Darius Smith, who should give Garrett a nice partner up front in their pass-rush attack.
If Cleveland’s defense is strong, it can do some real damage in the AFC, as its offense looks loaded, at least on paper.
Watson will have a full offseason and training camp with his new teammates, which include four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper and young studs Elijah Moore and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
In the backfield, Nick Chubb gives the Browns arguably the league’s best running back, not to mention someone who will take lots of pressure off Watson and his receivers.
Anything less than a playoff spot this coming season will be a big disappointment for them.