Although the Browns’ main upside of their 0-16 season was their stellar defensive line, this was one of the only areas of the team that was disappointing. They did not perform poorly, but it was more of a mixed bag than most Browns fans expected.
The run defense, which was ranked in the top 10 in the 2017 season, plummeted all the way to 28th against the run, allowing a massive 135 yards per game to opposing rushers. That being said, poor run defense is not exactly necessary to make a deep postseason run, as the Kansas City Chiefs ranked only one spot above the Browns, allowing three fewer yards per game. Still, it would be nice to see better run defense from Garrett and company, as they share a division with to rising rushing stars Lamar Jackson and James Conner.
On the passing side, the Browns’ defensive line performed much better, led by Myles Garrett’s 13.5 sacks. When playing against the Browns, opposing QBs managed only an 83.4 QBR, the fifth-worst overall. This is a huge improvement from last year, in which the Browns had the worst number in this category. This is partially due to an upgraded secondary, but also due to the fact that the Browns were able to pressure the quarterback about 31.6% of pass plays, ranking the team 15th. Many elite teams employ air-raid strategies, so continuing to guard against the pass is critical for the Browns to secure a winning season in 2019.
While there is certainly no lack of talent on the Browns defense, it will be interesting to see if they can work better together next season to continue to improve. Defense wins championships and the Browns still have plenty of room to improve if they hope to compete in the AFC North in coming years.