The 31st ranked rush defense in the NFL resides in Cleveland, Ohio. When looking deep into the Browns run defense woes, the inconsistency and inability of this porous unit warrants the negative attention garnered on a weekly basis.
Players in general don't offer reasonable facts as to why the play of the unit remains a noticeable issue. Call it a defensive mechanism for many, while others simply imply they can do better and will work hard to do so.
In Cleveland, the players change, the coaches also reside within a revolving door. The one aspect which hasn't changed is the performance. The Browns have been unable to stop the run for the better part of 12 years.
Stopping the run is a mindset established early in training camp. Perfecting the run-stopping scheme comes with coaching, preparation, selflessness and accountability.
Correcting the problem isn't as simple as deciding to stop the run one afternoon. But, in a way, that philosophy does play into the basis of changing the culture of the Browns run defense.
With this Browns defense, stopping the run has been achieved on occasion by selling out in a concerted effort to focus on this one specific aspect and utilize personnel to succeed.
The theory is not different from what can be viewed when watching teams such as the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals on occasion.
Whereas the Browns resort to sporadically all hands-in focus on run stopping, those teams mentioned play the run aggressively as a base to their defensive philosophy. It's this focus, a 100-percent commitment to attack the offense, a ball-carrier play-in and play-out which separates those from the Browns.
In watching the defense of those mentioned teams, it's easy to note why they are successful. Every move is a calculated, well coached machine. Its physical football, its players accounting for each option and putting a helmet on a body to ensure the next man following has a path to destroy the play.
With the Browns run stopping defense, the opposition frequently exposes numerous weaknesses within the Browns defensive unit.
As an example, let's use a couple scenarios which play into the equation on any given Sunday.
Knowing one DT is aggressive off the snap, an offensive lineman has been known to leverage the DT's first-step in walking him off the gap, and thus opening the hole, which then then guard and/or center reaches the second level and bodies a LB.
This reaching of the second level is a common issue the Browns run defense struggles to control. In as much that a LB can fill and make the play, it's the next issue which hampers the Browns next.
When reaching the second level, let's use the MLB spot as an example.
The MLB should be a visible, play-maker in the middle of the defense. At times the MLB gets a clean break to the ball-carrier, at other times he is engulfed and cannot make a play. It's this inability to get off the block or running out of a play which this Browns defense is too versed with.
Much of the same should be noted about the play of the Browns defensive ends. An end in the Browns scheme has the responsibility to maintain the edge (the perimeter). The LDE struggled mightily early in the season with this important aspect, while opposite, RDE continues to struggle.
These struggles only magnify the situation.
Due to limited speed and quickness at OLB, the opposition attacks the gap integrity, with a belief the offensive player and/or blocker can get to the spot before the Browns can fill.
It's this inability to maintain gap integrity, the inability to seal the edge and the inconsistency of LB's and D-linemen to get off blocks which teams attack in knowing they will succeed.
Defensive backs around the league on good defensive teams often play a critical role in run support. Most successful defensive units utilize DB's to fill a run-stopping role. The philosophy in Cleveland is not any different, only that the Browns DB's overall are not effective or reliable run stoppers.
The difference between making a play within two yards of the line of scrimmage and five yards beyond the same line is consequential. It's the five yard area which the Browns fare often, leading to prolonged drives by the opposition.
The overall lack of team speed and quickness on the defensive side of the ball is alarming. Fast or quick players can play the game at a quicker level. It's this physical difference when all other aspects are equal which separates the Browns from those successful run-stopping defenses.
Couple speed, quickness, physicality, aggressiveness and scheme against a slower, more passive type opposition, it's easy to determine which side is likely to achieve at a higher level.
These are common issues which occur week-in and week-out against the Browns defense.
While being a simplified, condensed version of the Browns run-stopping issues, the end-issue is the Browns run defense needs a mental and philosophical overhaul.
Just look at the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals to see why.