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News & Notes: Browns will do 'everything we can' to address run defense issues

The Browns are reviewing all the errors that led to a rough performance by the run defense Sunday against the Chargers


The Browns have several areas of improvement they must address after another gut-wrenching defeat in Week 5 — the loss was the third game this year they've gone into the fourth quarter with a lead and lost it.

Run defense is at the top of the list.

The Chargers totaled 238 rushing yards against the Browns, the second straight opponent to have crossed the 200-yard mark against them. RB Austin Ekeler totaled a career-high 173 yards, and his 71-yard gash on the Chargers' second drive of the game foreshadowed the rough day that was ahead for the defense.

"We've got to own it, and we've got to fix it," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "We have to make sure we look at everything. There's nothing you can't look at. We have to be intentional about that because until you stop it, teams are going to always continue to do that."

The Browns are 28th in the league in run defense after five games, a ranking far lower than what was expected from the group after it retained nine of its 11 starters from last season. Expectations were high on that side of the ball to begin the year because of the way the defense finished last season — the Browns limited opponents to 26 or less points in all but one of the final 11 games and were a top-five defense in the NFL.

But the results so far have been a stark contrast. After an excellent effort to hold RB Christian McCaffrey to 33 yards in Week 1, the Browns have shown regression and allowed opponents to rush for 90 or more yards every week since, including 440 yards the last two weeks.

Players and coaches alike are searching for solutions.

"We have to fix it quickly," Stefanski said. "We have a lot of guys who have played really good football for us. I know they want to get it fixed. I know we as coaches do, as well. We will look at it, and we will just make sure that we do everything we can to get it fixed and fixed quickly."

One answer might come from a player the Browns acquired Monday morning.

Pro Bowl LB Deion Jones joined the Browns in a trade with the Falcons and should provide some stability in the middle part of the defense. Jones is a seventh-year veteran who was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2017 and has tallied at least 100 tackles in five of the last six NFL seasons.

Jones has spent the first five weeks on injured reserve due to shoulder surgery he received over the offseason but is eligible to be designated to return to practice. Stefanski said he'll arrive at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on Tuesday and will be evaluated.

"We'll put our eyes on him," Stefanski said. "We just felt like we could add a veteran linebacker to the group and thought it was the right thing to do."

Faith in Jacoby

Stefanski stuck up for QB Jacoby Brissett on Monday after he threw an untimely interception on the Browns' final red zone drive late in the fourth quarter.

The interception marked the second straight pick Brissett has thrown in the final minutes of the game, and all three of his interceptions this season have happened in the fourth quarter. The pick against the Chargers overshadowed a solid performance from Brissett, who completed 21 of 34 pass attempts for 230 yards with one touchdown and one INT.

"I have a lot of faith in Jacoby," Stefanski said. "I think he's playing well, and that was a bad play. He knows that. He is beating himself up about that. He is making some big plays in these games, both with his arm and with his feet, to give ourselves a chance to score points or whatever it is. Jacoby will be in those moments again. It might be this week or it might be the following week, and I expect him to come through."

Emerson steps up

One young player who has been a bright spot on the defense has been rookie CB M.J. Emerson Jr., who helped the defense complete a crucial stop against the Chargers when they attempted to go for it on fourth-and-1 with 1:14 left.

Emerson lined up across from Mike Williams, who had already caught 10 passes for 134 yards. Williams is one of the tallest receivers in the league at 6-foot-4, but Emerson, who's 6-foot-2 and was drafted by the Browns in the third round because of his size, was up for the challenge.

QB Justin Herbert attempted the pass to Williams, and Emerson broke it up. The play was one of the best yet of Emerson's first season.

"Fourth-and-2, really just film study honestly," he said. "The back was to my side, two by two. I was just being alert for the lines. It was fourth-and-2. I jumped based on that and tried to get underneath him, but I ended up outside. Just played through his hands, a good play to try to give us a chance."

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