Over the last three offseasons, the Browns have added 17 defensive players through free agency and the NFL Draft, and those additions have paid dividends for the 2012 team.
The Browns enter their season-finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers only three sacks away from equaling their total from 2011. They have already generated 29 turnovers, 17 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries, compared to the nine and 11 they registered last season.
“You want explosive plays on both sides of the ball, and typically, that means sacks, tackles for losses, interceptions, fumble recoveries for touchdowns,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “You want explosive plays because there are a lot of close ball games and throughout the season, you need to have some difference-making plays on defense.”
Defensively, the Browns have scored two touchdowns on interception returns. In the season-opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown. Five weeks later, defensive back
In 2011, the defense did not return any turnovers for touchdowns.
“You need some scores and those are very important,” Shurmur said. “They’re very demoralizing for an opponent when that happens. Just like anything in football, you want to be very efficient, but you also want to be very explosive. I think the same can be said for offense, defense and special teams.
“I think the players really grabbed on to what we were talking about, being able to catch the football, which relates to interceptions.”
The Browns had 12 players register sacks, but only three had at least four last year, defensive end
“We’ve added some defensive linemen and sometimes, it’s scheme when you pressure,” Shurmur said. “Getting sacks is important, and as much as it’s important to get sacks, disrupting the quarterback’s rhythm and timing is also important. From a run-game standpoint, controlling the run is a team thing. That also comes with not allowing them to have big runs.”
Before Thursday’s practice, Shurmur updated the media on several injured players, including quarterback
“Colt, Trent, Brandon and Sheldon are all the same status as yesterday,” Shurmur said. “I’m not going to rule anybody out yet. We’ll just have to see. Everybody comes back from these things, some quicker than others. As we get closer, if they can’t play, I’m not going to try and hold it till game time.”
When asked on Thursday what accomplishment he was most proud of over the past two seasons, Shurmur was quick to talk about the work his coaching staff has done in getting a team with 27 rookies on a 53-player roster ready to play at an NFL level each week.“I think we’ve made improvements and I think we came into a less-than-ideal situation when we got here,” Shurmur said. “Every situation is different and I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the work that the guys that I hired did, in terms of inspiring the players to improve. It’s a little different thought process when you’re working with so many young ones. There are certain things you’ve got to keep hammering home that when you have a veteran crew, you talk about other things. These guys did an outstanding job with that.”