In 2017, the Browns collected a league-low 13 takeaways and often couldn't get opposing offenses off the field. Through three games this season, they've forced 11 turnovers and look to continue that pillage in Oakland this weekend.
"The best defenses that I have had the chance to be around, to coach, to be with are the teams that can take the ball away," defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said Friday, describing the dynamic as "tremendously vital" to the team's success.
Cleveland had a whopping six takeaways against the Steelers in the season opener and added another three to the total in last week's win over the New York Jets.
"You have to be able to take the ball away," Williams said. "That happens with ability first. You have to have that ability. Some guys do not have much of that instinctive ability. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, you have to be able to go ahead and get it done."
The Browns went out this past offseason and acquired a score of players to do exactly that, including rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, free safety Damarious Randall and former Raiders corner T.J. Carrie.
Williams said he'll won't let up on a defense that's proven thus far to be one of the league's top units thanks to that revamped secondary, defensive linemen Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Larry Ogunjobi and a trio of linebackers as talented as any.
"We have to continue to emphasize it. We do it every single day. Our guys believe in that," Williams said.
"The talent level in some of those very key spots are vital to being able to do that. In the pocket, we have to be able to do the same things on sacks of quarterbacks. You have to be able to strip the football out in those situations. We have had a few of those already, but the dominant teams have more of those on the sack opportunities that turn into a takeaway. We need to do that, too."
— The Browns will get a pair of defensive starters back in linebacker Christian Kirksey and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. Kirksey, the veteran and captain, missed the first and second games of his five-year career while Ogbah sustained an ankle sprain early in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two return to a defense that has held its past two opponents — Jets and Saints — to less than 275 yards of total offense.
— Although Tyrod Taylor cleared the league's concussion protocol earlier this week, he remains questionable for Sunday's game with a back injury he sustained against the Jets. If healthy, he will back up rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield for the first time after opening the season as the team's starter. Taylor, traded to Cleveland from Buffalo in March, struggled in that game before suffering a concussion in the second quarter.
— Randall is also listed as questionable with a heel injury for the second straight week. If he can't go, Williams said third-year defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun will start in his place. "I trust Boddy a bunch. He's gotten a ton of reps," he said. "No qualms at all about Boddy playing. He's a smart, tough football player."
— Earlier this week, the Browns collectively said 34-year-old Marshawn Lynch remains "Beastmode" even in the twilight of his career. He had more than 1,000 all-purpose yards last season and is something of a tone-setter for an Oakland offense under new coach Jon Gruden.
"I have tremendous respect for Marshawn Lynch. He is one of the best football players, running backs that in the 30 years I have been in the NFL have had a chance to see," Williams said.
"We have our work cut out for him and make sure that we do the right things when he touches the ball and play good defense."
— Wide receiver Jarvis Landry's willingness to take over punt return duties last week for Jabrill Peppers underscores his selflessness and desire to win, special teams coordinator Amos Jones said.
"We knew when we signed Jarvis that he was a capable punt returner in this league. His experience factor was always on the radar," Jones said.
"Jabrill, at that point in time had gotten to the sideline, and not sure to whether he was injured or whatever, but it was a scenario where it was time for Jarvis to be able to step in.
"You're talking about a starter playing a special teams role. Those are those types of plays … With Jarvis, his selflessness shows up in that situation because he has been a punt returner and a primary punt returner in this league for quite a few years."
— Rookie kicker Greg Joseph knocked down a pair of field goals in what was his first game with the Browns and regular season NFL debut. Cleveland signed the former FAU standout off the street days before the Jets game after parting ways with Zane Gonzalez, who struggled the first two weeks. Joseph delivered when it counted.
"It wasn't the prettiest of some as obvious by the first kick, but hey, the bottom line is the kid put it through the goal posts. He kind of gradually got better," Jones said.