Targeted Aggression


As bad as the Browns have been offensively since 1999, I’ve been just as frustrated watching the defense.  Regardless of scheme, coaches or players, it looks the same year after year.  We see them give up lots of yards on the ground, always lose time of possession, hope to force enough field goals to keep the game within reach, and most of the time give up big plays at the end of the game.  “Bend-but-don’t-break” is a losing philosophy in today’s league.  It is far too easy for offenses to take what you give them and pick you apart until all that’s left is the carcass.  You have to disrupt the quarterback and make big plays, so constructing a tenacious pass rush is the highest priority.  In 2011, the Giants (with a suspect secondary) were able to beat Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady because they have some athletic freaks up front that were able to cause chaos and kill drives.  I am thrilled that the Browns have identified this and prioritized the pass rush in free agency.

Paul Kruger is capable and experienced, and we should be getting his prime years (unlike the Fujita and McGinest signings from years past).  The Browns may have overpaid him and I don’t believe he’s as good as most seem to think, but I have no doubt that he’ll help Ray Horton’s new defense.

The Browns also signed Desmond Bryant to some good money, probably more than he was expecting a few weeks ago when he took one of the most priceless mug shots of all-time when he was arrested on a “criminal mischief” charge.  Bryant has great size and athleticism and statistically was one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the league last year.  This addition to the line gives Horton all kinds of flexibility and depth.  The defensive line was the strongest unit on the team last year and looks even stronger going into this season.

Horton was able to convince the Browns to bring in one of his guys in Arizona last year, Quentin Groves.  Groves had his best season as a pro under Horton and should also be a positive contributor to the Browns pass rush from the outside linebacker position.

Like most fans, I’m stunned Banner has not signed a corner yet, given how many were available, but I’m OK with that given what they have signed so far.  I don’t like using early round draft picks on defensive players that you’re projecting to use differently than they were used in college, so filling the outside linebacker holes with experienced, solid players is an excellent strategy.  The Browns will almost certainly draft a corner and still may sign Grimes or Munnerlyn.

I had a mentor who taught strategy at the War College who told me that most battles are won by the aggressors.  This is true of football as well.  In his introductory press conference, Coach Chud said he wanted an aggressive, attacking defense.  The hiring of Horton and these three signings are big steps in achieving that goal and finally changing the passive defensive culture that has resided here since 1999.  The front office has  made aggressive moves to become a more aggressive team, but it seems like a more focused, targeted aggression than what we’ve seen from teams like Tampa last year and Miami this season, who desperately threw big money at big names and hoping things change.  I’m very encouraged so far by this new regime’s approach.

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Reviewing the Initial Browns FA Signings


Well, the Browns certainly were one of the most active teams early after the free agency period began, signing former Ravens Outside Linebacker Paul Kruger very quickly.  Kruger got a 5 year, 41 million dollar deal, making him the teams third highest paid player.  Later in the evening, the Browns signed former Raiders Defensive Tackle Desmond Bryant to a 5 year, 34 million dollar deal.  Before night fall, the Browns had inked the best pass rushing linebacker and the best defensive lineman available.  Not bad.  Early this morning, it was announced that the Browns had signed former Cardinals Linebacker Quentin Groves to a 2 year, 2.8 million dollar deal.

First, lets look at Paul Kruger.  Kruger has been rated as the 6th best pass rusher in the NFL by profootballtalk.com, and was expected to be one of the top 2 free agents available this off season.  He brings an immediate upgrade to the Browns pass rush, as well as post season/super bowl experience.  Coupled with the already impressive D’Qwell Jackson, the Browns have two highly touted, in-their-prime linebackers to build around.

The addition of Desmond Bryant gives the Browns one of the overall best defensive linemen in the NFL.  Bryant is an outstanding pass rusher, but also a powerful run blocker.  He is as dangerous a D-linemen as you will find in football.  Additionally, the upgrade Bryant provides gives the Browns true depth on the defensive line, with Rubin, Taylor and Bryant all being solid to outstanding linemen.  Additionally, Defensive End Jabaal Sheard can now be expected to be moved to outside linebacker, which really is a more natural position for his skill set.  Again, the Browns now have true depth in their defensive line and potentially in their front seven.

I think the biggest steal of the free agency period so far is Quentin Groves.  A paltry 1.4 million per year, Groves is much better than that contract would indicate.  He’s one of the most underrated linebackers in the league, and was highly productive in Ray Horton’s system.  I don’t know if he’ll start, but he will definitely provide depth.

Shawn’s Picks: My Best Case Scenario For Free Agency


Tomorrow at 4:30 pm, free agency officially kicks off.  I’ll jump right in and give you my dream scenario of signings (I try and keep it within the realm of possibility here), and where I hope things stand heading into draft day.

1.  Dannell Ellerbe.  Ellerbe is ready to become a star, and the Browns could outbid the Ravens for him, even with their slightly increased cap space since trading Anquan Boldin.  Ellerbe is big, and one of few really good ILB’s in the NFL.  He’d go great next to Jackson.

2.  Cliff Avril.  Yeah, I’m pretty over Paul Kruger.  He’s going to cost too much money, he’s too risky, and I don’t like him working out long term.  Let Indy have him.  Avril has a ton of upside, and he’s going to be around for a while.  Definitely the kind of guy we can build around.

3.  Keenan Lewis and Greg Toler.  Lewis to start opposite Joe Haden, and Toler to get time in off the bench.  Lewis is developing into a stud, and Toler is in his prime. 

4.  Jared Cook.  He was soooooo terribly underutilized by the Titans.  If he gets paired up with Chud and Norv, he can be a constant All-Pro Tight End.  That should appeal to him, and hopefully get us a discount.

5.  Domenik Hixon.  I realize he hasn’t been mentioned in connection with the Browns at all, but this is my list.  Hixon is a solid 2nd tier receiver, and the Browns are so paper thin at WR.  It wouldn’t hurt to make Little have to produce to earn snaps, and would take some pressure off Gordon.  This draft is relatively light at WR, and our lack of a 2nd round pick means we probably won’t get anyone decent.

I realize my picks didn’t do anything to help improve the Guard spots on the o-line, but I’d look to the draft for that.  I’d like to see that #6 pick go to another pass rusher, and look later for offensive linemen.

We’ll see how tomorrow goes.  The anticipation is killing me.

Rumors: Browns willing to spend big on Spencer and Avril


As the muddy Free Agent rumor waters are starting to clear a bit, whispers are turning into shouts that the Browns are willing to outspend anyone to get much coveted pass rushers, DE Cliff Avril (Lions) and LB Anthony Spencer (Cowboys).  Avril has played in the 4-3 in Detroit, but is perfectly suited to play OLB in a 3-4.  Spencer was a beast last season, one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. 

The Browns are letting it be known that they want these two badly enough that they will outbid any other teams for their services.  And they should, those two are fantastic already, put them in DC Ray Horton’s attack based defense, and they will destroy opposing quarterbacks.

Report: Greg Oden to put off signing deal until this summer | ProBasketballTalk


Report: Greg Oden to put off signing deal until this summer | ProBasketballTalk.

 

I still really don’t think Oden would be much help, but if he’s cheap enough, go for it I guess.  Looks like he wants to play in Cleveland over the alternatives.  He can be really good if he’s healthy.