The 2018 Cleveland Browns Defense has been overworked and underappreciated. A notion is circulating that it is the weak link (maybe even the ball and chain) among the three position groups. Nothing could be further from the truth. While there is room for growth, and there are still some thin areas among the personnel, the REAL numbers roll out quite well for the group.
BROWNS D IS UNPOPULAR
There is no denying that the Browns defense is taking a beating in the court of public opinion. Mention the recent success of the Browns – with three wins in the team’s last four starts – and it’s likely that people will eventually malign the team’s defense, as the conversation extends.
OLDTIME STATS ARE NOT KIND TO BROWNS D
To be fair, for those who look at ONLY the surface (inflexible, antiquated, provincial, old fashioned and epidermal) level stats and criteria to measure success on the defensive side of the ball, there is nothing to celebrate; the Browns are in and around last place in the NFL for total yards surrendered per game (411) and in the bottom third of the league in points given up (25.5 per game).
WANNA LEARN SOMETHING NEW?
This is not Buddy Ryan’s NFL. Defenses get gashed. The Browns are not immune. And while it would be foolish to completely dismiss failing grades in any category, there is much to dissect and explain away (easily) in the aforementioned (yards and points against) numbers that so many cling to. There is also much to be celebrated in several keys but rarely discussed statistical categories. So, let me invite you into my smorgasbord of measurables.
If you want to love this Browns’ D, and want to be informed why it’s okay to do so, despite some rough moments (welcome to the 2018 NFL), you no longer have to feel silly.
If you want to continue to hate the Browns’ D and want to be affirmed in your position, you will find nothing appetizing here. I’ll still feed ya. But, you’ll spit it up. Not everyone likes delicacies and tapas of truth – particularly when they inhibit the cozy cocoon of criticism.
PER DRIVE MEASUREMENTS – YARDS PER DRIVE
Because the Browns are currently leading the NFL in the most drives faced (152), it is important to look at their numbers on a ‘per drive basis.‘ To not do so is bad math, skewed and lacks common sense. The first statistic that truly matters is yards surrendered per drive. The Browns sit 13th in this category (31.53 yards per drive) – ranked ahead of not just 19 other teams, but also ahead of multiple playoff bound teams. Simply put – the Cleveland Browns are one of the top-13 best defenses in the NFL, in the amount of yardage they give up per drive.
TIME ON FIELD AND POINTS PER DRIVE
Giving up points has also been a concern for those who do not choose to index point totals surrendered, against defensive time on the field (2nd highest minutes in the NFL). In actuality, the Browns are currently in the top ten (10th) in the NFL in points allowed per drive (tied with PIT).
Having not shared these statistics with many people, but having shared them with some, the reaction has generally been along the lines of ‘yah, but they are only on the field that much because they can’t stop the opposition.’ Cute theory – one that would work in a lot of cases. But, not with this group.
PLAYS PER DRIVE AND GETTING OPPONENTS OFF FIELD
In fact, the Browns defense is the 12th-best in the league in minimizing plays allowed per drive. Equally impressive is the fact that they are able to get their opponent off the field the seventh (7th) fastest of any defense in the league.For those of you mounting up “yah, but that’s just because the other team scores,” I simply remind you of the top ten (10th) ranking in points allowed per drive……crickets yet??? Okay, so I’ve set the table and the main course and you have either digested the intel (appreciative of being informed) or you have dug in your heels and will argue until your face is blue with ‘yah buts,’ as you seek to be affirmed in your position that the ‘Browns D sucks.’
To the latter, I show you the proverbial door. There’s nothing I could have fed you that you wouldn’t have called ‘not fit for dogs.’ But, for those who crave information and are hungry for more – I give you dessert.
Today, we are having turnovers. Not apple or cherry. Today, we have the fumble and interception variety. In a league where the turnover and takeaway game is considered almost as vital as scoring, these turnovers are ‘Browned’ beautifully.
First (1st) in fumbles per drive, ninth (9th) in interceptions per drive and second (2nd) in total turnovers per drive.
OKAY TO LOVE THIS D
Pretty compelling stuff to support a pretty darn solid season, to date, from a defense constantly referred to as ‘trash’, ‘junk’ and ‘garbage.’
To those who thought there was something somewhat special about this group, despite all the griping and moaning from your peers and media – you were right and they were uninformed and wrong.
>Plus, any time you want to just step out of the numbers and enjoy the essence of the resiliency of this group, feel free to remember the multiple big moments, goal-line stands, huge stops. There have been many.
These immeasurable plays were not just good moments from a bad defense. They were the essence of what this group is becoming – something very special. And all from a group that is young, relatively inexperienced and still learning their craft.
Your instincts were right. They are pretty good. Middle of the NFL pack good – and getting better. And…now you have some solid numbers to back it up!