Cleveland Browns defense ranked #4 in NFL

Oakland Raiders QB Jason Campbell (8) is tackled by Cleveland Browns Chris Gocong (51) and Scott Fujita (99) in a play that resulted in Campbell breaking his collarbone at the Coliseum in Oakland, California on October 16, 2011. The Raiders defeated the Browns 24-17. UPI/Terry Schmitt

After six games, the Browns are 3-3 and have the #4 ranked defense in the NFL based on yards allowed per game. The defense is ranked 9th if you look at points allowed per game.

Given all the moaning and groaning we’re hearing from the fans, this stat might be a surprise. We’ll how the entire season plays out, particularly as the schedule gets tougher, but the Browns are seeing the payoff from drafting for defense. Tom Heckert has found excellent players in the draft, with Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard leading the way. The Browns are better this year on defense, and much younger as well.

Colt McCoy and the offense gets all the attention, but the defense is important as well. So far, it looks like the Browns are building a defense that can be a force for years to come.

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Eric Wright moves on to Detroit

Anquan Boldin brings in a 27-yard touchdown pass over Cleveland Browns’ defensive back Eric Wright during the 4th quarter at at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on September 26, 2010. Boldin scored three touchdowns in the Ravens 24-17 victory over the Browns. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Is this a big loss? I doubt it. The photo above tells the story – Eric Wright had a terrible season last year. Tom Heckert and the Browns wanted to keep him but he took less money to go to Detroit. This tells me he needed a change of scenery, so the Browns are probably better off without him, even though the kid had some talent.

Shaun Rogers is out for the season

Mary Kay Cabot is reporting that Shaun Rogers is done for the season. It’s a big blow for a Browns team that has only managed one ugly win all season.

Rogers has been having a great year, and the defense played fairly well against Cincinnati giving up just 16 points. But injuries are now piling up.

Same old Browns?

Yesterday’s loss was naturally disappointing, but hearing guys like Tony Grossi say that these are the “same old Browns” is just ridiculous.

First, it’s one game against a team that has Super Bowl talent. They got beat by the best running back in the NFL, and they held him in check in the first half. The Vikings made good adjustments and with the Browns offense folding in the second half the defense was put in a tough spot.

Next, the defense is completely new. The Browns got great pressure and they got four sacks. The vanilla defense from the Crennel years is gone. Kamerion Wimbley looks like a real player again, and Shaun Rogers was also a stud again. Also, we saw the cornerbacks playing the receivers very tightly. I thought I was looking at Dixon and Minnifield from the 1980’s. That was very refreshing.

The offense was a problem, and Brady Quinn looked terrible. We can’t draw too many conclusions after just one game, particularly against a tough Vikings defense. That said, he needs to bounce back and start looking like a pro quarterback very quickly. Hopefully he’ll get better with time, but if he doesn’t make real progress by week 4, they need to take a look at Anderson.

It was, however, refreshing to see them run the no-huddle offense. They also introduced a Wildcat formation with Josh Cribbs, though they made a mistake running it twice in the red zone, particularly on the one yard line. Why couldn’t they run a QB sneak with Quinn?

Things change dramatically from week to week on the NFL. The Browns have a new regime and a new starting quarterback, so drawing the Vikings in week one was a tough one. Next week they have the Broncos, we were lucky to beat the lowly Bengals yesterday, so the Browns have a chance to show what they can do next week.

Shape up and shut up

This was the message sent by the new regime to Shaun Smith, but apparently he didn’t listen. After dogging it during practice on Friday, the Browns released Shaun Smith today.

We’re definitely seeing something new with the Eric Mangini regime, and even skeptics like Tony Grossi are noticing a big difference with the new regime. Romeo Crennel’s camp was a pleasure cruise next to the tough, disciplined camp run by Mangini.

Also, Mangini doesn’t take shit from players, so it’s no surprise that they let Smith go. He was always known more for his mouth than his performance.

Listen to how Mangini talks about another lineman, and you get the idea of what kinds of players he likes, and why guys like Smith won’t last long.

With Smith gone, second-year lineman Ahtyba Rubin, the Browns’ sixth-round pick in 2008 out of Iowa State, will most likely see more action behind Rogers and in the line rotation.

“I really like Rubin,” said Mangini. “Rubin is just a consistent guy. He comes in, works like crazy, is stout against the run, and has really improved his hand placement. I like all the things I’ve seen from him.”

None of us will know whether Mangini’s approach will lead to success on the field until we see this team in action, but the renewed emphasis on discipline and execution sure sounds nice after the Crennel fiasco. At the very least, we might finally have a team that we can respect, as opposed to the comedy of errors we’ve witnessed for years.

In the long run, if Mangini puts together a hard-nosed, disciplined team, the fans will give them time to grow into a contender.

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