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In most regards, the Cleveland Browns defense struggled in 2020 but, according to a new study, were unique in their coverages. In base statistics, the Browns were pretty middle to the pack in yards given up but were worse against the pass and a little better against the run.
Part of their success against the run and struggle against the pass, based on yardage, was due to the Browns offense. The Browns defense faced the 22nd most rushing attempts (412) but the eighth-most (585) passing attempts in the NFL last year.
Still, the secondary was also a part of the problem which the team seemed to identify this offseason with their moves. Starters for most or all of the season, Andrew Sendejo, Karl Joseph, Kevin Johnson and Terrance Mitchell are no longer on the team. In their place are free agents John Johnson III and Troy Hill along with the returning Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit. Top draft pick Greg Newsome II will also fight for the starter position opposite Denzel Ward.
While the secondary was in shambles, that didn’t keep defensive coordinator Joe Woods from showing a variety of coverages, says Pro Football Focus. In a new piece, that is highly data-oriented, PFF notes that the Browns had the ninth most “coverage uniqueness” in 2020:
Later in the piece, they showed that being unique didn’t always lead to great coverage but that some of the best defenses were unique:
What we see with some of the top teams is either uniqueness (Rams and Dolphins) or very good pass rushes (Steelers, Washington, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Baltimore).
With significant additions to the secondary, and the defensive line, will Woods continue to be diverse in his scheme calls? If so, could the Browns pull off a great combination of coverage uniqueness and a very good pass rush with Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Takk McKinley and Malik Jackson?
While it may have been frustrating to watch the Browns try to cover folks in 2020 at least Woods was trying to scheme up ways for them to win. With loads of talent added to their coverages, including Anthony Walker and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at the linebacker position, the Browns could be even more diverse in coverages next season.