Browns plug holes in rushing defense
The Browns have the NFL’s top-ranked passing defense. That’s
because everyone runs on them.
Last week, the Houston Texans steamrolled the Browns for 261
yards rushing, a punishing performance that exposed some gaping
holes in Cleveland’s defense – gulfs and gaps the Browns spent the
week trying to plug in preparation for Sunday’s game against the
St. Louis Rams and their powerful back, Steven Jackson.
”I think last week was an aberration,” Browns linebacker Scott
Fujita said. ”It’s about coming back and just getting back to what
Trouble is, before the Texans gashed the Browns with their
intricate zone-blocking scheme, the San Francisco 49ers amassed 174
yards rushing the previous week and Cleveland’s defense is allowing
144 yards per game. Only Indianapolis and St. Louis are worse.
It’s enough to keep any defensive coordinator up at night, and
Dick Jauron said this week he hasn’t been happy with Cleveland’s
run defense most of this season.
”We’re giving up too much in the run game,” said Jauron, a
26-year NFL assistant in his first season with Cleveland. ”It’s
not total yards. It’s never total yards, its yards per carry.
That’s the deal. Last week it got out of hand, the yards per carry
was just too big.
”I’m not concerned with total yardage, but the yards per carry,
when that gets consistently out of whack then you got issues.”
The Texans averaged 6.5 yards per carry, and the Browns are
allowing 4.4 yards per attempt this season. Jauron would like it to
be a lot lower.
”I’d like to see it at zero,” he joked. ”Up in the 3’s,
3.7-3.8, in that area you’re OK.”
The Browns were not OK last week. To offset Houston’s blocking
scheme, Jauron moved his defensive linemen back off the line of
scrimmage, figuring it would give them more time to analyze blocks
and allow Cleveland’s linebackers to get to the ball carrier.
While the theory may have sounded good during meetings and even
worked in practice, it failed miserably against the Texans, who
drove over the Browns at will.
”It wasn’t the best idea because it didn’t work out,” Jauron
said. ”They did a really nice job and we didn’t. They’re a really
good team that played well and we didn’t play particularly well on
Jackson has rushed for over 100 yards in the past two games, and
the Browns are bracing themselves for a heaping helping of the Rams
star, who picks up yards with a violent running style.
”It’s another one of those guys that are real difficult to
prepare for,” Fujita said. ”I played him quite a few times and if
you let him get going, he’s one of the best backs in the league.
He’s different than some of the backs we’ve faced the last couple
weeks. He’s not like the Frank Gore-type who can kind of hide, slip
between gaps and then burst.
”This is a guy who’s like a train, who wants to get rolling. If
you let him get a full head of steam, he’s tough to bring
Jackson has rushed for 579 yards, ranking him 12th in the
league. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per attempt, a number the Browns
can’t afford to let him sniff.
Another of Cleveland’s problems last week was poor tackling. It
was bad enough that Houston’s Arian Foster and Ben Tate ran through
gaping holes, but when the linebackers and defensive backs had a
chance to bring them down, they didn’t – or couldn’t.
Foster ran for 124 yards and Tate had 115 as the Browns allowed
two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since
”That left a bad taste,” said safety Usama Young, who will
start this week in place of injured T.J. Ward. ”You never want to
give up that many yards on the ground or in the air. We want to
bounce back this week. We worked hard and went over the corrections
we needed to and now we’ve got to execute.”
Notes: Injured RB Peyton Hillis said his left hamstring was
improving. Hillis will miss his fourth straight game since getting
hurt on Oct. 16 at Oakland. Browns coach Pat Shurmur said earlier
this week there were no plans to put Hillis on injured reserve. …
Browns K Phil Dawson practiced Friday after missing one day with a
migraine. Dawson was able to do all his kicks and said he was
feeling better. .. Starting WR Mohamed Massaquoi will not play this
week as he’s still bothered by symptoms from a concussion.
Massaquoi attended meetings and told Shurmur he was feeling