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

we do.”

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

that day.”

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

down.”

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

1956.

”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

better.