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Browns Mailbag: What should fans expect from the Browns defense going forward?

The time to turn the page from last week's win at Baltimore and this Sunday's game against Denver starts … now.

Here's what's on your minds after one of the biggest wins Cleveland's had in awhile.

Great win last week, but our run defense and pass rush didn't show up again. Is this what we should expect from our defense here on out? We can't rely on McCown to throw for 400 yards every game. Jay M., Ohio

Five weeks is a good chunk of the body of work NFL teams establish throughout the regular season. It's harder to move up and down in statistical categories as the games pile up. And the Browns, as it stands entering Week 6, are 30th in total defense, 31st in rush defense, 18th in pass defense and 22nd scoring defense. It's not where the Browns wanted to be at any point of the season, let alone Week 6, and the focus going forward is fixing all that's gone wrong and playing at a level that takes some pressure off the NFL's No. 8 offense.

Did anyone honestly expect that last sentence to be written at any point before the season started? I'll wait…

Needless to say, the Browns are looking for answers and making tweaks to get more out of a defense that came into the season with high expectations. Those were on display against the Ravens, as Nate Orchard, Armonty Bryant and Tank Carder all saw increased playing time at linebacker. Despite Desmond Bryant's return to the lineup, rookie defensive lineman Xavier Cooper continued to play because he showed some things during Bryant's absence. The gap in repetitions between Danny Shelton and Jamie Meder at nose tackle has been slimmer in recent weeks, as both players appear to play better with more rest throughout the game.

It might be hard to remember, but it was around this time last year when the Browns showed significant improvement on defense, and Cleveland is hoping its final six plays from the Ravens game can serve as a launching pad. The Browns defense was gashed for a big play at the worst possible time late in regulation last week, but it hung tough near the goal line and forced a field goal when it appeared all of the momentum was on Baltimore's side. In overtime, the Browns didn't let the Ravens gain a single yard and forced a three-and-out. It was absolutely what the team needed at the time and it needs to carry over to a stretch of games where 33 offensive points are an unrealistic assumption.

"We know we have the defense to get the job done at the end," defensive lineman John Hughes III said. "It is really hard to explain how satisfying to finish a game like that, especially getting the stops and they had to kick a field goal and then come into overtime and get it done. It was just one of those things that sticking together as a defense, everybody coming together and trusting the guy next to you, that is what it is all about."

Why isn't the run game going hard like the pass? -- Octavius S., Winston-Salem, N.C.

This falls into the "tailored suit" analogy Browns coach Mike Pettine likes to use so often. The game plan going into last week centered on throwing because Baltimore wasn't going to let Cleveland move the ball on the ground. As the game wore on, though, the running game piggy-backed off the passing game's success and came up big in a number of late situations. Seven of Cleveland's 25 rush attempts came in overtime and helped set up a comfortable game-winning field-goal attempt for Travis Coons.

Don't be surprised to see a few more openings in the running game in the coming weeks as defenses acknowledge and respect the success of Cleveland's passing offense. Also, bruising back Robert Turbin is expected to bring a different element to the group as soon as Sunday.

Any word on the trio of injured rookies, especially Gaines? Seems his presence might take some pressure off other guys to spot start during injuries. Hope something turns around on defense soon. Go Browns. -- Patrick F., Chatham, Va.

For clarity, here are the three players you're asking about -- DB Charles Gaines, TE Randall Telfer and DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Gaines is currently listed on injured reserve - designated to return. He's eligible to return to practice this week and, if he's deemed to be 100 percent ready, would be eligible to play Week 8 against Arizona. Telfer and Ekpre-Olomu are listed on the reserve/non-football injury list. They're eligible to return to practice anywhere from Week 6 to Week 11. If/when they do return to practice, they must be activated within three weeks or they're considered out for the season. All three players have been going through vigorous rehab programs in hopes of returning to the field not just as soon as possible, but also in the best possible shape.

Why do the Browns constantly throw a 2-yard pass on third down when it's like third-and-5 or -6 yards, which seems to never work. -- Doug S., Huber Heights

I know there's nothing more frustrating for fans than seeing a player run a route short of the first-down marker, but the Browns have been one of the league's best on third downs through five weeks. After converting a whopping 12-of-19 against the Ravens, the Browns are second in the AFC and third in the NFL in third-down efficiency. Josh McCown's quarterback rating of 123.2 on third downs is second in the league.

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