It’s about time that the Browns got defensive. Years have passed since the team was able to field a defense that both excited the fans and struck fear into the hearts of the opposition. But is this year’s defensive squad what Cleveland Browns fans have been waiting for? Can this defense bring that “thing” which has been missing for far too long from Lake Erie’s shores?
The most logical answer is “No.” This particular group of players is not going to be able to play at a level most would consider appropriate for the use of the term “dominant.” That term should only be used this year for teams like the Giants, Bears, Ravens and Patriots whose talent and chemistry allow them to consistently dictate the outcome of games. This version of the dawg defense isn’t near that point yet.
But, this group of players is capable of having an excellent season. Three position players stand out immediately in my mind as key pieces to a defense that can be really special. Shaun Rogers, Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald are all gifted athletes. Rogers is probably the single most noteworthy NT in the game. When healthy and happy, he is capable of causing untold amounts of havoc. His presence alone can give defensive coordinator’s fits. Throw in two young and athletic corners in Wright and McDonald, who have proven to have noses for the ball and solid ability when it comes to coverage, and the Browns defense has a strong foundation.
The Achilles heel for the Browns over the last few years though has been the team’s inability to stop the run. That could all change in 2009. D’Qwell Jackson may not be a household name now, but he is easily one of this team’s most active defenders. Now that he has veteran help next to him in the form of Eric Barton, he has a chance to reach his full potential. Playing within Rob Ryan’s defense could propel Jackson to the Pro Bowl. A goal that should be attainable for OLB Kamerion Wimbley as well. However, realistically, if Wimbley could just remain consistent in his growth and account for a fair share of sacks this season, most fans and coaches would be happy.
However, the biggest asset this team has in 2009 is a field general. Abram Elam gives the Browns defense something it hasn’t had in years. Sean Jones was a solid talent, but Elam will fill that void. He provides leadership that is essential for success. On and off the filed he has been a personality that has contributed in word and deed. In many ways he is an extension of Eric Mangini. It is for that reason Mangini tried to pry him from the Jets during free agency and then pushed to get him when that fell through in a draft day trade. The intangibles Elam brings to the table may push this team beyond most analysts expectations.
So, this team may not be the Dawgs we have longed for. They might not intimidate and always excite. To be honest, I expect growing pains. But, these players have the ability to make their mark this season. Together they can give us the type of defense we have waited for. We will just have to watch and see.
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