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Dawg Pound Journal: Jim Leonhard proving to be invaluable

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When the Cleveland Browns signed safety Jim Leonhard on July 30, more than a week into training camp, the move was viewed by outsiders as coach Mike Pettine tossing a bone to one of his former pupils.

Leonhard had spent five various seasons with Pettine in Baltimore, New York and Buffalo. Many viewed the 32-year-old's signing as a possible move for Leonhard to help teach Pettine's defensive system, and then possibly a move into coaching.

Leonhard hasn't just been a mentor to younger defensive backs like Tashaun Gipson, K'Waun Williams and Justin Gilbert – he's been an absolute force on the field.

The safety's interception, the 34-yard return that followed it and a clutch third-down sack on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck proved that Leonhard's signing wasn't just a token from Pettine. Leonhard can still play productive football in the NFL and he's showing no signs of slowing down.

It's soothing to know how well Leonhard played. It's also unpleasant knowing his extraordinary effort came in a loss. 

"We knew we had to play our best game defensively. We knew we had to make a lot of plays," Leonhard said after the game. "For the most part, we did that. It's extremely hard to hold that offense down for four quarters. We fought for 60 minutes, but we came up just a little short."

Even though Cleveland has lost three out of four games, the film doesn't lie: This team is playing lights out on the defensive side of things.

Leonhard said the key to Cleveland's defensive revival has been from the bench. Reserves such as Craig Robertson, Billy Winn and K'Waun Williams have replaced starters without missing a beat. Leonhard said it shows how well the Browns' defensive system is being absorbed by its players. 

The Browns aren't losing hope. Leonhard was a part of a 2009 Jets team that had to win five of six down the stretch to qualify for the postseason by the skin of its teeth. It can be done. And it starts from belief within.

"In December, you have to win these types of games to get in the playoffs," Leonhard said. "We're putting our backs against the wall … hopefully we can sneak into the playoffs."

Three things I wonder

I wonder … why Josh Gordon's snap count is being made into such a big deal. Gordon's 54 snaps (out of 68 possible) were tied with Jordan Cameron as the most on the Browns outside of Hoyer and the offensive linemen. It's been known Gordon has been playing himself back into football shape, a mode of fitness that's unattainable in a practice setting. The Browns clearly said from the beginning that Gordon was not being deemed a savior when he returned three weeks back against the Falcons. Gordon would've likely played a few more than 54 snaps had he been more effective (two catches, 15 yards). Credit the undermanned Colts for

I wonder … If Pettine will make a quarterback decision today. There's been a ton of mental stress put on Brian Hoyer ever since training camp. Because his numbers have considerably dipped, it's only human nature to assume the pressure could be getting to the quarterback – who, let's remember, is essentially playing his first full year in the NFL. A decisive decision today, whether it's declaring Hoyer the starter or inserting Johnny Manziel, might erase uncertainty about the situation.

I wonder … If Paul Kruger will make the Pro Bowl. Outside of Joe Haden, no Browns defensive player has been as important as the outside linebacker. Kruger's nine sacks tied a career-high he set back in 2012 with the Ravens – the year Baltimore went on its Super Bowl run. Those who were pandering on Twitter about Cleveland overpaying for Kruger as a free agent last spring have been silenced. 

Three things I wonder

I wonder … why Josh Gordon's snap count is being made such a big deal? Gordon's 54 snaps (out of 68 possible) were tied with Jordan Cameron as the most on the Browns outside of Hoyer and the offensive linemen. It's been known Gordon has been playing himself back into football shape, a mode of fitness that's unattainable in a practice setting. The Browns clearly said from the beginning that Gordon was not being deemed a savior when he returned three weeks back against the Falcons. Gordon would've likely played a few more than 54 snaps had he been more effective (two catches, 15 yards). Credit the undermanned Colts for stifling one of the NFL's most dangerous receivers.

I wonder … If Pettine will make a quarterback decision today? There's been a ton of mental stress put on Brian Hoyer ever since training camp. Because his numbers have considerably dipped, it's only human nature to assume the pressure could be getting to the quarterback – who let's remember, is essentially playing his first full year in the NFL. A decisive decision today, whether it's declaring Hoyer the starter or inserting Johnny Manziel, might erase uncertainty about the situation.

I wonder … If Paul Kruger will make the Pro Bowl? Outside of Joe Haden, no Browns defensive player has been as important as the outside linebacker. Kruger's nine sacks tied a career-high that he set back in 2012 with the Ravens – the year Baltimore went on its Super Bowl run. Those who were pandering on Twitter about Cleveland overpaying for Kruger as a free agent last spring have been silenced.  

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