Barkevious Mingo SCOREBOARD 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH - - - - - REGULAR SEASON W-L 4-12 5-11 4-12 5-11 5-11 POINTS PER GAME 19.2 18.8 13.6 16.9 15.3 POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME 25.3 23.0 19.1 20.7 23.4 YARDS PER GAME 338.9 314.2 288.8 289.6 260.1 YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME 332.4 363.8 332.3 350.0 389.3 TURNOVERS 27 23 17 28 30 TAKEAWAYS 19 29 20 28 19 Key Additions: RB Ben Tate, WR Marlon Moore, WR Miles Austin, S Jim Leonhard Key Subtractions: QB Brandon Weeden, OL Chris Faulk Rookies: CB Justin Gilbert, QB Johnny Manziel, OL Joel Bitonio, LB Christian Kirksey, RB Terrance West, CB Pierre Desir DIAMOND IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES SPORT Browns Defense Cornerback Joe Haden is one of the main anchors on this defense and he was recently rewarded with a long-term extension. Opposing quarterbacks have avoided throwing the football his way on the field because of his ability to make plays. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the Browns’ first-round pick in 2013, had five sacks in 15 games last season. New head coach Mike Pettine brings a complex blitz package and it will be up to the defense to learn those packages. The Browns ranked ninth in yards allowed per game last season, but they were awful in the red zone. The opposition scored 64 percent of the time in the red zone, which is unacceptable. The Browns also gave up the most fourth quarter points of any team in the league – more than nine per game. If the Browns can gain traction on the defensive line, it will alleviate the pressure on Haden and the rest of the defensive backfield. Too many times last season, the cornerbacks and safeties had to make tackles 10-15 or 20 yards downfield. Then the opposing quarterbacks would be able to dissect the Browns’ defense with long throws. It left the defensive backfield too susceptible to the big play. Another problem that must be fixed is takeaways vs. giveaways. The Browns were tied for 25th in the league at minus-eight last season. Turning the ball over eight more times than taking it away is not good enough. The Browns must be more aggressive in forcing fumbles and intercepting opposing quarterbacks. The lack of big plays on defense last season hurt the Browns in a number of different ways. Pettine is likely to alter that with his hard-charging approach. Defensive Player to Watch As the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, the Browns had high hopes for Mingo. He played well at times; he struggled at other times. That’s part of being a rookie in the NFL. Now entering his second season, Mingo is primed for a huge improvement. He had one sacks in each of his first three games but managed just two sacks the rest of the season. In the offseason, Mingo put on some eight to improve strength and agility. A new coaching staff will be an adjustment for Mingo, but through the beginning of training camp, he has looked strong. Mingo is loaded with talent and he showed that early last season. If he find more consistency, the Browns will be rewarded with the all-around stellar player they took sixth overall. Browns Special Teams After two subpar seasons, kicker Billy Cundiff bounced back to connect 21-of-26 field goals. Cundiff also converted all 32 extra point attempts. He needs to improve his distance on kickoffs, however, because field position is vital throughout an NFL game. Punter Spencer Lanning struggled to find consistency, especially pinning teams deep. Lanning punted the ball 84 times for a 43.8 average. Travis Benjamin could be a difference-maker on special teams but he’s coming off an ACL injury. Before Benjamin was injured, he averaged 11.7 yards per punt return and scored on a 79-yarder against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 3. In that game, he set a franchise record with 179 yards in returns. The Browns need better production on the coverage units and would benefit greatly from takeaways in that department. Prediction Expect another season below .500 for the Browns. They made some roster additions in free agency and through the draft, but there’s not enough all the way around to see a winning record by the end of the season. Getting their younger players to play well should help with the team’s confidence. It’s important for Pettine to get control of the locker room if they start off slow.
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