Led by aggressive defensive coordinator Ray Horton, the Cleveland Browns have been pretty good on defense in 2013. Horton has dialed up some gutsy blitzes and has wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. The Browns have not allowed a 300 yard passer or 100 yard rusher throughout the season. Cleveland’s defense is ranked no. 1 in yards per play (4.5). Here is the defense grades through nine games.
If Phil Taylor doesn’t get strong consideration for a pro bowl nod, then there is something wrong. Finally completely healthy, Taylor is everything the Browns envisioned him to be when they took him in the first round of 2011. Desmond Bryant has been an awesome free agent signing and Ahtyba Rubin continues to play at a high level. But, it’s not just the starters that make the d-line special. The Browns are strong with depth as back-ups, Billy Winn, John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, and Armonty Bryant have each played important roles. Together, the d-line has 10.5 sacks this season.
At times, the Browns linebackers have been overmatched in the passing game. Led by captain D’Qwell Jackson, the line backing corps has been very solid this season. Rookie Barkevious Mingo has four sacks on the season and looks to be worth every penny the Browns used to make him a first round pick. Veterans Quentin Groves and Paul Kruger have also made a small impact. Moving from defensive end to linebacker in the offseason, Jabaal Sheard has also adjusted and played well with 2.5 sacks.
Heading into the season, the defensive back situation looked worrisome. The Browns basically made two moves to address the situation – signed free agent Chris Owens and drafted Leon McFadden in the third round. However, third year corner back Buster Skrine has been a pleasant surprise. Turning around his misfortunes from a year ago where he led the Browns in pass interference penalties, Skrine has played exceptional opposite Joe Haden.
And, then there’s the drafted “brothers” Haden and TJ Ward. Haden is matching up with the NFL‘s best receivers each week and virtually shutting them down. The fan favorite has nine pass defenses and one interception through nine games. Playing in the final year of his rookie contract, Ward is having a great year. He is a tackling machine that Horton has playing up in the box quite a bit. It will be interesting to see if Ward returns to the Browns in 2014.
Ryan Ruiz is the Cleveland Browns Beat Writer for The Inscriber: Digital Magazine. You can follow him on Facebook: Ryan (BrownsWriter) Ruiz and Twitter @ryanpruiz24. Ryan is also a Browns correspondent for The Sportsfix. Tune in every Friday at noon on www.thesportsfix.net. Have a question or comment for the “ASK Ryan” column on Fridays? Email Ryan at email@example.com