Going through the dog days of training camp, there are a few things surrounding the orange and brown that does not involve the Josh Gordon suspension decision. For the first time in a good while, the three topics all relate to things on the gridiron (very refreshing). Although the preseason starts next week for the Browns, training camp
(so far) has opened the eyes of fans and media alike.
Tell me if you heard this one before, but the Browns’ defense is defeating the offense at a consistent rate. This refers to making tackles, stopping drives, and frustrating athletes (just ask Ben Tate) when facing each other. The defense has been rewarded with newly
coveted orange jerseys – Pettine’s got to come up with some sort of incentive. For many years, the defense has been the dominant side of the ball not because they were a tremendous unit – but more because the offense has been extremely poor. I hope the 2014 results are due to inexperience of the unit and their infancy in learning Kyle Shanahan’s system.
Earlier in the week, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the type of contact the head coach installed – known as “thumping”. Here players make solid collisions with their teammates and wrap them up, without actually taking them to the ground (which was employed in other practices). For many this does not seem like a big deal – but the Browns seem to rarely practice hitting in the summer months. The end result has been horrible tackling (and bad defense) in the fall. Hopefully these drills, spearheaded by veterans Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner, can transform the defense to a more tenacious unit.
Jim Leonhard’s signing:
After reading the book “Collision, Low Crossers”, the signing of Jim Leonhard was a no-brainer. Mike Pettine has employed the former University of Wisconsin safety during his stops in New York and Buffalo – and has given the athlete much praise. While with the Jets, Pettine said Leonhard was the most important player on the defense and his season-ending injury destroyed the unit’s effectiveness. The safety knows Pettine’s defensive scheme more than any athlete and will be a great teacher. At age thirty-two, he may be more on the field during special teams for 2014. But I look forward to him providing tips to Tashaun Gipson, Jordan Poyer, and even Donte Whitner. In my opinion, there was only upside in this signing by the Cleveland Browns.
Conclusion: I cannot wait until next week, as the Browns will face off against players on another team. For now, it’s just competition against their teammates. It has been rather competitive, even combative at times. I know the team has a long ways to go but I am (probably foolishly) confident they can make strides in 2014. It all starts in training camp; I believe the mindset has changed – they are a tough bunch that will not be pushed over. Now, the Browns must prove it on the field against opponents.