With an offense that ranked 32nd in the league, the Cleveland Browns defense was provided few opportunities to catch a breather in 2009. When the opportunity was presented, the Browns defense did little to endear themselves as a viable option.
The Browns' ?susceptible defense was a wilted and wounded bunch.
Imagine being the 31st ranked defense in the league. The opposition grasping your will at every turn, whether it be done by running the ball down your throat or the opposition throwing the ball up and down the field.
If there ever was a recipe for disaster, it was the 2009 Cleveland Browns.
Knowing the roster required additional talent in the defensive backfield and at linebacker, the Browns under the direction of head coach Eric Mangini, barely persevered. But the writing was on the wall. The offseason prior to the 2010 season would be one which additional change would be the norm and expectations would be heightened.
Throughout the 2009 season, the Browns defense was consistent. Consistently unable to slow the opposition, much less stop the opposition. Injuries and inability yanked at the core of this unit. Beaten down physically, making up for a poor excuse of an offense only added fuel to the fire.
Then, as terrible the prior 12 games had gone, a metamorphous transpired and the Browns found life in an unexpected measure. Winning the final four games of the season can provide a glimpse of promise, in Cleveland winning accomplished just that.
With the regular season being less than one month away some of the same issues witnessed a season ago continue to plague the Browns defense.
The linebackers and safeties still have yet to find a common ground to cover the middle of the field. Tight ends, some of the marginal variety, manage to find the soft spot in the Cleveland defense.
One preseason game in the books and the look is remarkably the same. The same should be noted that practice sessions also take on a similar look. With a defensive line that cannot generate push, the defensive scheme is incorporated to attack with linebackers and blitzing defensive backs.
Such moves create voids that a team like the Cleveland Browns have yet found a means to control.
Granted, this is the preseason, the lights of prime-time have yet to come on. Sure, veterans such as Shaun Rogers and David Bowens have yet to line up, while the steadiest tackler on the team, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, sidelined for undetermined amount of time because of a pectoral injury.
Offseason acquisitions like bringing veterans Scott Fujita, Sheldon Brown and Chris Gocong should add talent, experience and stability to what has been a reeling defensive unit. Ahytba Rubin, a blooming presence in the middle of the Browns defensive line, will continue to improve and provide a dynamic against the run.
But seeing is believing. Having been down the road of vast change and promises of improvement within this team, it's difficult at times to see through the mist of potential and cloudiness of reality.
On paper, the talent has improved. Visually in practice sessions, the talent level at numerous positions has improved. Linebackers are hitting the holes, cornerbacks are running side-by-side with receivers and a young rookie safety is flying all over the field.
All the promise is there, the potential has improved.
Now, getting the 11 players to play as one seems to be the question the Browns have endlessly pursued.