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The Cleveland Browns defense was quite poor in 2020 but, somehow, not ranked in the bottom five according to Expected Points Added per play (EPA).
EPA is another metric that attempts to quantify football to help understand it better. It looks at what is expected from a certain play pre-snap and what the actual outcome is after the play. While no data point is full proof, EPA gives fans (and teams) interesting information to go off of based on history
Boiled down to its simplest terms, EPA says that historically a team running the ball on 1st and 10 against this quality of defense has averaged this amount of yards per play. If the offense gets more than that, positive EPA for the offense and negative for the defense. If the offense gets less than that, negative EPA for the offense and positive for the defense.
An oversimplification but an easy way to explain EPA.
For the Browns, whose defense struggled in every metric last year, they didn’t make the bottom five in defensive EPA in 2020 but history is on their side for improvement:
Sadly, the Browns over the past five years have joined the Raiders and Lions in being bad against both the run and pass despite the above-noted history:
The Browns have added a number of quality defenders to their defense. This could be one of the reasons that teams have historically improved after terrible years, adding talent is always helpful.
While the Browns were not at the bottom of the list in 2020, their defense was not good. History, and a lot of added talent, tell us that they are bound to improve, and drastically.