Through the first three halves of the young season, the Cleveland defense looked to be struggling to find their identity. With a vast majority of players on the defensive side being first-year members of the organization, a period of adjustment was surely expected. However, even the most die-hard Cleveland supporters could not have foreseen the preverbal light switch go on in the fashion it did in the last two weeks. The Browns’ defense led by coordinator Joe Woods has shot up the rankings to third in the league in total defense through the first four weeks of the season.
Recipe for Excellence
Cleveland is at their best defensively when they are able to generate pressure with their defensive line. With Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney providing consistent chaos off the edges, Joe Woods is able to utilize his new pieces in coverage as Garrett, Clowney, Malik Jackson and Malik McDowell have done a tremendous job the last two weeks of controlling the line of scrimmage. This makes the job of the remainder of the defense much easier, as they are able to focus on stopping opposing backs and wideouts.
In week 4, the Browns took down a team that runs a similar offensive system to their own in Minnesota. With that in mind, Kevin Stefanski and Joe Woods knew just how vital it was to contain the Vikings’ potent rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook who came into the game with a hampered ankle. As a team, Minnesota rushed for just 65 yards on 23 total attempts which severely hampered their ability to consistently move the ball downfield. They were unable to utilize play-action nearly all afternoon, one of the staples of their offense.
A Unicorn on Defense
Perhaps Cleveland’s most welcomed addition to their defense has been rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. So far this season, Owusu-Koramoah has rated higher than any other rookie from this year’s class with a grade of 89.8. Cleveland’s defense has looked exponentially better with the former Notre Dame linebacker on the field, as his speed and playmaking abilities have surely made a tremendous difference. After a seven-tackle performance against the Vikings, Owusu-Koramoah remains one of the most important pieces to an improved Cleveland defense.
Even without two key starters on defense, Cleveland has looked to be hitting their groove after only a few weeks of regular-season action. Starting middle linebacker Anthony Walker has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury but has been recalled from injured reserve ahead of week five in Los Angeles. However, rookie cornerback Greg Newsome will miss his second straight game on Sunday with a calf muscle issue. It should be noted however that Newsome is week to week and was not put on injured reserve as of now. Newsome has looked sharp so far this season, wining the starting job against Greedy Williams during training camp. Williams will once again be counted on to contribute in week five in Newsome’s absence.