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National media taking notice of Cleveland Browns' playoff-hungry defense

Ryan Wilson has done his research of teams around the league for the upcoming 2015 NFL season, and he's concluded one thing.

"The Browns can't be dismissed as a legitimate playoff team next season," wrote the longtime writer.

Wilson makes several points, but he's pointing his finger toward Cleveland's defense as the main reason. The unit already ranked 11th in the league, according to Football Outsiders metrics, despite lingering issues defending the run and it being the first year with the system installed.

To support his argument, Wilson senses improvement from a pair of first-round picks, who very well could blossom into playmakers in defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil's system. 

"There's every reason to expect [Justin] Gilbert to improve from Year 1 to Year 2. The same holds for 2013 first-rounder Barkevious Mingo, the undersized rush linebacker who has been less than 100 percent healthy for much of his NFL career," Wilson wrote.

Detractors outside the Browns' facility say Josh McCown brings a level of uncertainty to the quarterback position, but Wilson argues Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith-type quarterbacks can make the playoffs when they are surrounded by a strong defense and protected by a sturdy offensive line.

"While today's NFL is all about offensive firepower, and only teams with a franchise quarterback have a real chance to win the Super Bowl, the road to the playoffs is less restrictive," he wrote.

"If they can get to Week 15 at 8-6 or 7-7, then anything's possible – including the playoffs."

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