Jim Schwartz has moved mountains so far for Browns

Jim Schwartz has moved mountains so far for Browns

Mac Blank
7 months ago
3 min read
Cleveland Browns' Jim Schwartz looks on ahead of game

Since the Browns lost to the Chiefs in the 2020 playoff divisional round, fans have been craving a defense that could win for this team. Too many times in the Stefanski era has the defense been one 3rd down stop away from a win, but time and time again fans witnessed blown leads. 

Once the 2022 season ended, head coach Kevin Stefanski and GM Andrew Berry decided to fire former defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who had been with the staff since Stefanski's arrival in 2020. 

In his place they hired Jim Schwartz, a coach who reached the playoffs 7 seasons as a defensive coordinator and 1 as a head coach. Many knew a combination of his hiring and added defensive line talent would lead to a better defensive, but through three weeks, statically this is a top defense in the history of the team and the best defense since the team returned in '99.

For starters, since the Browns came back in '99, only 4 times have they held their opponents to under 150 total yards. Two of those four times came this year vs. the defending AFC North champions and the Mike Vrabel-led Tennessee Titans. 

Compare this to just the first three games of last year where they allowed 971 total yards, which is almost double what they’ve surrendered this year. Their competition was better as well as the trio of Joe Burrow, Kenny Pickett, and Ryan Tannehill were tougher opponents compared to Baker Mayfield, an aging Joe Flacco, and Mitch Trubisky. The latter being 3 QBs who were benched later in the season last year.

Situationally is where they most drastically improved as it’s a night and day comparison between the defense on 3rd down and in the red zone. This year, opposing offenses have converted on third down only 19.5% of the time, which is half of the 39.5% conversion rate they allowed last year. 

The opponents trips to the red zone though have been few and far between, as the Browns defense has been inside their own 20 twice this season. This is an even more wild stat considering last year the Browns opponents averaged more than 3 red zone trips per game. 

Of course, it goes without saying general manager Andrew Berry added massive talent to the defensive front with names like Za'Darius Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Ogbo Okoronkwo, but let's not downplay the gap and coverage discipline Jim Schwartz has instilled on this defense. If a player is out of position when defending against the run and pass it can lead to big offensive games. 

To put this concept under a microscope, you can look at missed tackle rate, number of run stops, and yards gained after the catch. Taking this defenses averages through three games and projecting it into the entire season- the Browns are on pace to have 19 less missed tackles, 20 more run stops, and over 200 yards less after the catch. A lot can change after three weeks, however. Injuries, inability to adjust, and general season fatigue can turn any stout defense into a liability. With Jim Schwartz at the helm, this defenses mentality seems night and day. No longer are they a "bend don't break" defense, they are making their opponents earn every single yard. 

This week, a Baltimore Ravens offense comes to town thats boasts the 5th best rushing attack in the league. The Browns defense has the task of stopping former MVP Lamar Jackson, a player this coaching staff has yet to beat when he plays a full game. If there was a year a Browns defense would be ready for this challenge though, it would be this one.

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