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Taking the ball away main emphasis of Cleveland Browns' defense


Donte Whitner

Hold on tight! 

The message to every Cleveland Browns running back and receiver is reinforced the moment he gets the football in his hands during training-camp practice.

That's because no matter where he is on the field, a defender will be looking to try to pull the ball loose. And it might not necessarily be a defender who is involved with the play. Some defenders standing on the sideline have been known to reach out and force a fumble.

Coach Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil, along with the rest of the defensive coaching staff, have been emphasizing the importance of turnovers in every meeting since the start of offseason workouts.

And the players on that side of the ball are clearly listening.

It is almost comical the way every ball-carrier constantly has to fend off the hands long after a play has effectively ended. There could be as many as four defenders reaching out to strip or punch the ball loose. And in some cases, they succeed.

"To me, you look at the statistics in the league – what's the biggest indicator of wins and losses?" Pettine said. "It's the turnover ratio. We want to be one of those teams that takes the ball away and doesn't allow teams to take it away from us."

Last season, the top team in the NFL in take-aways/give-aways ratio was the same club that won the Super Bowl: the Seattle Seahawks, at plus-20.

Six other playoff teams – Kansas City, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and San Francisco – rounded out the top 10.

The Browns were tied for 25th at minus-eight.

"I think, as frustrating as it is for our running backs, it's great practice for them having guys pulling at it and hacking at it," Pettine said. "And it's good for our guys defensively. It's a habit like anything else. Hopefully, it will carry over to Sunday." >>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for "Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford" on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on We take your questions at 216-578-0850 and via Twitter @Browns_Daily.

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