Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Opportunities abound for Browns defense

Lots of interesting news swirling about some of Red Right 88’s favorite sports teams today.

First off, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron sat down with the Beacon Journal‘s Nate Ulrich for a Q & A and a few points stood out to us:

  • Jauron wants a physical defense: “We really need a to step up and be a very touch and physical team, not only throughout the whole league, but particularly in our division.”
  • What about the switch to a 4-3? “There are challenges. … The personnel mix is different. The numbers are different. There’s a lot of significant differences. It’ll take some work.
  • The team likes its linebackers – to a certain extent: “We’re really happy with … the starting three, the veteran three with Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong and D’Qwell Jackson. The front three, we’re depending on those guys, really, to play like the veterans they are … and hopefully stay healthy.”

For starters, what’s not to like about a physical defense? We’re so tired of watching the Browns get slapped around by other teams and their defense not being able to dish it back out (and not in the illegal Pittsburgh way).

The Browns need to be able to take a shot and give it back just as good – in the words of Al Swearengen: “Stand it like a man… and give some back” – especially in the division. They showed late in the 2009 season that if you stand up to teams like the Steelers you can get them to quit.

Next, rebuilding the defense is going to take time and patience – no matter how tired Browns fans are of hearing that.

In his book, Take Your Eye off the Ball, Pat Kirwan said it should two years to make the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 – if a team is smart about it. Teams generally have three to four players in their front seven with the skills that translate to the new defense. If the front office does its homework, a team can fill out the front seven in two drafts and one free agency period.

The Browns are on their way to rebuilding the front seven after drafting Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard to join Ahtyba Rubin on the defensive front. The front four the Browns should be modeling themselves after is Minnesota’s with Kevin Williams and Pat Williams at the tackle spots, and Jared Allen and Ray Edwards at the ends.

Taylor and Rubin can take up a lot of space in the middle, Sheard can hopefully put some pressure on the quarterback and the Ray Edwards role could be filled by … Ray Edwards, who is currently a free agent.

The linebackers do concern us, primarily because there is little depth behind the three players Jauron singled out. We saw what happened last season when Fujita went down with an injury; if any of those three go down again this year there’s not much on the bench to fill the void.

The only quibble we have with Jauron is his use of the word “challenging” – these are opportunities for the Browns, not challenges. The team has the opportunity to finally build a solid defense, one that isn’t an embarrassment against the run and one that can make the opposing offense react to the defense for a change.

And what’s not to like about that?

***

The magic was back at Progressive Field this weekend as the Cleveland Indians swept Pittsburgh.

Cord Phelps sealed the deal on Sunday with a three-run homer in extra innings.

We have to feel bad for Justin Masterson, though. Masterson gave up two runs in the first inning then combined with pretty much the entire bullpen to hold the Pirates scoreless for the next 10 innings. But Masterson walked away with a no decision.

The bullpen has not allowed a run in 22 2/3 innings over seven games.

Masterson, who is now 5-5 with a 3.18 ERA on the season, hasn’t earned a win since April 26. In that 10-start stretch, he is 0-5 with an ERA under 4.00 and has allowed two or fewer earned runs seven times.

He must have done something wrong, because the Tribe has scored all of 20 runs in Masterson’s last 10 starts.

It was nice to see the Indians right the ship, even if it is only temporary and was just against the Pirates. While you can’t count on the Tribe to sweep, they do need to get back into the habit of winning series so that they can start rebuilding their record.

Much like we pondered a few days ago about what the Indians should do with Fausto Carmona, Terry Pluto presented some scary numbers about Carmona in today’s Plain Dealer. According to the article:

  • Carmona’s ERA is the highest of any regular starting pitcher in the American League
  • Carmona allows 40 percent of baserunners to score, also the highest rate among AL starting pitchers
  • Carmona has already given up 14 home runs (in just 91.2 innings pitched) compared to just 17 (in 210.1 innings) last year.

Depressed yet?

The good news is the Tribe has options,with Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister pitching well in the minors. If Carmona or Mitch Talbot continue to struggle, one of them could be moved to the bullpen to make room for Gomez or McAllister.

If the team does have to make a decision between Carmona or Talbot, it will be interesting to see how much salary (Carmona makes $6.2 million vs. $431,000 for Talbot) will play into the decision.

***

The U.S. Men’s National Team finally played a solid game, beating Jamaica 2-0 to advance to Wednesday’s semifinal of the Gold Cup, where they will get a rematch with Panama.

The Americans were aggressive again on offense and were rewarded for their efforts with goals by Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey.

The bad news was Jozy Altidore left nine minutes into the game with a hamstring injury and, after the game, U.S. coach Bob Bradley said he didn’t know what Altidore’s status would be for the remainder of the tournament.

But that’s a concern for another day. For now, it’s good to see the team have its best game of the tournament heading into the semis and raise our hopes for a final date with Mexico next Saturday.

***

Oh yeah, the NBA Draft is this week. The Cavs are playing it close to the vest about what they plan to do with the first and fourth picks in the first round.

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