The standout player
Karlos Dansby – 23 tackles, 1 interception, 1 sack (that helped win the game against the Saints)
When other players talk about Dansby, there's a common theme -- he hits a lot harder than you'd think. Dansby's been using his length to deliver punch on his blows over the middle. His versatility has been a much needed asset at middle linebacker, too. On Dansby's interception in Week 1 against the Steelers he was matched up against Le'Veon Bell, one of the fastest running backs in the league.
"His production has been great," said inside linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach. "I think his leadership has been outstanding. He's really starting to do some things now. I feel like he's been in the scheme for a couple of years. (He's) very, very vocal on the sideline, vocal out on the field. He's doing everything we've asked him to do."
The standout player part II
Paul Kruger – 11 tackles, 2 sacks
It's only been three weeks, but it's hard to argue there's been a better overall player on the Browns than Kruger. He's consistently beating offensive linemen, stopping the run and making big plays. Both of Tashaun Gipson's interceptions were setup by Kruger delivering a crushing blow to the quarterback, causing an errant pass. His statistics may not look it, but without Kruger, the Cleveland defense would have a totally different feel.
"If you guys feel that he's improved from last year, the credit belongs squarely on his shoulders," said outside linebackers coach Brian Fluery. "He's the one that's put in the work, done everything he needs to buy in what we're teaching and applying it on Sundays."
The role reversal
The Browns' first-round draft pick in 2013 has found himself dropping in coverage much more than rushing the quarterback. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Mingo saw 47 total snaps against the Ravens. Of the 20 that were passing plays, Mingo dropped in coverage 12 times. Remember, during Cleveland's intra-squad scrimmage in Akron during training camp, Mingo picked off a Hoyer pass. The coaches are continuing to use the LSU alum as a chess piece all across the defense.
"I'm pleased with where Mingo is," Fluery said. "We're asking him to do some different things than what he did last year. When you guys watch the film he's in coverage a lot more than he is going after the quarterback. I know there's been some questions as to why the sack numbers aren't there and I think it's just simply a reflection of the amount of reps he's had rushing the quarterback relative to everybody else. We're happy with where he is and the production he's given us."
The big issue
Big plays from running backs and receivers
Coaches and players have been upfront in saying they all share the blame for allowing chunk plays. Dansby and Driesbach agree that the inside linebackers understand where they need to be on the field; it's more about being physical, playing more downhill and not being hesitant to attack.
"The long runs we are giving up are skewing that statistics," said Driesbach. "We have time to get this fixed. It's an issue, but it's one we are confident that will soon enough turn into a strength of our defense."
The rookie report
The Browns' third-round pick has been everything and then some early in the season. Out of 214 defensive snaps this season, Kirksey has been on the field for 134, equaling out to 62 percent. Kirksey's posted 10 tackles and had a pivotal sack in the second half against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
"I feel like I've done well recognizing plays," said Kirksey. "Every day I learn something new about the scheme of the defense. My attitude has been to try and come to work every day and get better."
Added Driesbach: "Kirksey seems to be a little more safety-like in the coverage."