Skip to main content


Browns mailbag: Have the Browns done enough to improve their run defense?

Vacation is in the rear-view mirror for this member of the Browns organization.

Though we're still more than two weeks away from the start of training camp, we're not going anywhere for a long while. An extensive vacation that included stops in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Boston is officially in the past and archived on various social media websites.

Let's get right to a list of questions that didn't take any sort of break while we were gone.

With all the focus the Browns have put on defending against the run, do you think they have improved enough to at least be in top 15 in defending it? - Don G., Painesville

The work began soon after the Browns walked out of Baltimore on the wrong end of a hard-fought game between two division rivals. Even though this particular performance wasn't their worst against the run, the awareness was there. To get this defense anywhere close to its potential, the team had to make dramatic improvements against the run.

Months before the Browns bolstered the defense with a few key pieces in free agency, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil and his assistants dug deep into the film to break down why exactly the team surrendered more than 141 rushing yards per game. It was a mix of bad technique, alignment and other shortcomings. This was the first step.

The Browns received a major upgrade on the defensive line with the addition of veteran Randy Starks. Time also worked to the team's advantage, as John Hughes, who missed a lot of 2014 with injuries, ended the season on a high note and Phil Taylor rehabbed his way back to the field by the end of OTAs. Armonty Bryant, who went down with an injured knee midway through the season, is also scheduled to be ready for training camp.

And if you don't think the Browns are serious about improving their run defense, you didn't watch the draft. Massive nose guard Danny Shelton came to Cleveland with the No. 12 pick. Outside linebacker Nate Orchard, who could play a pivotal role in setting the edge against the run, joined the team via a second-round pick. Another disruptive force from the Pac-12, Washington State's Xavier Cooper, was a priority acquisition in the third round.

Just like that, from a personnel standpoint, the Browns were poised to be that much better against the run. There's just no telling how much the team has improved against it until Sept. 13 against the New York Jets.

The preseason will give us a glimpse, but it won't be enough to make any broad-sweeping conclusions. Training camp, though, will be a start and a much better gauge than OTAs because the players will be in pads.

One thing is clear: There's been no shortage of attention directed toward fixing all that went wrong against the run in 2014.

"Just being able to go back and show the guys where the mistakes were made [is beneficial], whether it was technique, alignment or schematics," O'Neil said. "I think the position coaches have done a great job emphasizing it in their individual work in the meeting rooms.

"I'm happy with where we are with the pads not being on right now, but we'll really know in a couple months."

The Browns have insane depth on the D-Line IF everyone stays healthy. It sounds like it will be heavily rotational based. Fresh legs are important, but do you think there are some negative drawbacks like we saw with the running backs last year (loss of reps, cold feet, play confusion)? I know there was some rookie growing pains and Alex Mack's injury was a big blow, but it seems like players want to make plays and get into a rhythm and BE out on the field. Thanks. - Shane H., Medina

I'll go right back to O'Neil to answer this one for you.

"I do think we'll be able roll more guys up front, and that's a good luxury because if you can keep those guys up front fresh, that will really help us in the later part of the game," O'Neil said.

In this circumstance, O'Neil was discussing the Browns' ability to play four- or five-man fronts but the philosophy applies to just about everything else involving the defensive line. The fresher the players are, the better they'll be. Teams are restricted by the number of players they can carry on game day, so every spot counts among defensive linemen. Ideally, the Browns will carry the kind of players they can count upon to rotate into any situation at any point in the game.

Why only 60,000 tickets to the Orange and Brown scrimmage? That place holds 100,000 people!! Did we underestimate Browns fans a little? - Joe R., Toledo

No underestimating here. Why else would we pick a massive stadium as the site for an intra-squad scrimmage?

Game-day logistics are the primary reason why ticket sales were capped at 60,000.

Is Armonty Bryant playing OLB or DE? With that, how would the OLB rotation go then with Scott Solomon, Mingo, Kruger and Orchard? Now that's deep at OLB. Let me know what you think. Thanks. -- Mark L., Toledo

Bryant is officially listed as a defensive lineman on the roster but he'll be splitting time with the outside linebackers when camp opens later this month. He didn't do much on-field work at OTAs, but he's expected to let it loose soon.

As for the pecking order at outside linebacker, that's going to be one of the top storylines at training camp. Solomon primarily worked with the first-team defense on the opposite side of Kruger while Orchard was with the second group. Mingo will be full go at training camp, but he didn't participate in 11-on-11 drills this spring because of his offseason shoulder surgery. Solomon received major praise from O'Neil near the end of OTAs while Mingo, who was labeled as the Browns' best linebacker in coverage, was challenged to compete for a pass-rushing role on this year's defense.

Does Josh Lenz have a good shot at making the team? -- Austin P., Dubuque, Iowa

Lenz has performed well since he signed with the Browns, but it will be tough. Outside of the secondary, there may not be a tougher battle for the final spot in the position room than wide receiver, which received -- pardon the pun -- a surplus of depth during the offseason with the additions of Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline.

There's always a surprise or two when the final cuts are made, and we're not in a position to rule anything out. What were people saying about Taylor Gabriel at this time last year?

When does training camp start? - Wayne L., Painesville

July 30.

Everything else you need to know about training camp can be found here:

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content