In the passing league the NFL has become, it's ironic that the 2014 Cleveland Browns' strength and weakness has to do with running the football.
On Wednesday, we discussed why the Browns are going to remain committed to their rushing attack, which has the offense ranked 10th in the NFL.
Now it's time to switch gears to why the Browns haven't been able to stop opposing running backs. Cleveland ranks 32nd in the NFL in rushing allowed (155.5 yards a game). The issue became one with substance when Jaguars reserve running back Denard Robinson was able to clip off 127 yards last Sunday. And the list of culprits is long.
Week 1: Le'Veon Bell (21 carries, 109 yards)
Week 2: Mark Ingram (11 carries, 83 yards)
Week 3: Lorenzo Taliferro (18 carries, 91 yards)
Week 5: Kendall Wright (2 carries, 43 yards) -- Wright was the leading rusher, though.
Week 6: Le'Veon Bell (18 carries, 82 yards)
The running issue for the defense stems with the word technique, or actually techniques. Some of the Browns liabilities have come from taking the wrong angle, not shedding blockers violently enough and even subtle things like where linebackers are lined up in the formation and not picking up pre-snap cues from the offense.
"If you don't play with the right technique, you are going to miss tackles, you're going to let guys spread out, you are going to have big runs," said Karlos Dansby. "It's evident. When you watch the film, we are playing with bad technique.
For the football nerds out there, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil broke it down technically. The Browns defense is predicated on creating chaos to free up players like Dansby, Chris Kirksey, Paul Kruger and Sheard to then wreak havoc.
"We don't stress gap integrity as much as most defenses do," said O'Neil. "We talk a lot about changing the math at the point of attack. What that means for our guys is taking two blockers. If we can change the math at the point of attack, it frees one of our linebackers up to be a free hitter to the ball. That's how we've had so much success in this defense."
"We just need to do a better job of taking two at the point whether it's a defensive tackle holding the double-team preventing a guy from coming off on a linebacker, an outside linebacker, if he gets a down block with a fullback and a guard coming at them, taking both of them, not just one of them. We never want to go one for one at the point of attack. Our guys are buying into it. It just needs to show up more on film."
To become a full-on feared and successful defense, the Browns know they have start pummeling running backs in their tracks.
"The coaching staff as well as us as players, we're trying to develop the sense of accountability, that we are really gelling together," said Desmond Bryant. "And without accomplishing stopping the run yet, we haven't really attained that. We're looking for answers. Our coaches have given us some great things. It's w
"We just have to continue to our job in containing the run," said Jabaal Sheard, implying that all Browns defenders need to stick to their role. "We have to do a better job of tackling and finishing off blocks."
O'Neil was also quick to point out the Browns have flashed the ability to stop the run in critical situations. The goal line stand in the first quarter against Pittsburgh at FirstEnergy Stadium as well as stuffing the Titans on third and fourth down gave lifeblood to Cleveland's offense.
"We've just got to be effective for four quarters, so it's the consistency thing," said O'Neil. "Our guys are buying into it. It just needs to show up more on film."