By Mike McLain | Photo by: Dave Spano
The Cleveland Browns put the memory of a season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs I the rear view mirror with a solid performance in a 31-20 win over the Houston Texans at First Energy Stadium. “Solid”, in this case, doesn’t mean the fan base should beginning making plans for a trip to the next Super Bowl.
There’s no doubt the offense will have little trouble scoring, especially with the way the ground attack is churning out yards. It’s almost an excess of riches to have such a sound offensive line paving the way for strong runners like Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb.
It doesn’t hurt having a gutsy, leader in Baker Mayfield at quarterback. Mayfield separated his left shoulder making a tackle following an interception but didn’t miss a snap and showed his courage by running for a touchdown in the second half. The next step everyone talks about is on the defensive side.
General manager Andrew Berry was almost relentless in his desire to upgrade everything about the defense during the offseason. The hope as that it would result in more pressure on opposing quarterbacks from players not names Myles Garrett, better secondary play and an overall uptick in unit speed.
If anything, the pass rush seems almost less effective than it was last season. Garrett is being neutralized but double teams. There’s no linebackers capable of coming off the edge with a strong rush. Jadeveon Clowney has never been a dominant rusher, although he forced a hurry late in the fourth quarter that led to a missed field goal by the Texans.
That facet of play absolutely needs to improve if the Browns are going to have long-term success. Tampa Bay routed the Chiefs in the last Super Bowl, not because of Tom Brady’s right arm but because of the Buccaneers stout defense and the pressure it mounted against Patrick Mahomes.
A pleasant sight and a possible coming attraction was the play of second-year safety Grant Delpit. Delpit is actually a second-year player but he missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon. Delpit, a second-round pick off of LSU’s national championship team, had a sack/forced fumble on a blitz in which he showed outstanding speed. He had several tackles and was responsible in coverage.
The more Delpit and rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah develop on defense, the more their speed and aggressive play will help the cause.
Expect to see coach Kevin Stefanski increase the use of the young defenders as the season progresses. The Browns play this Sunday, September 26 at 1pm at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland.