July 29, 2014

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Browns defense looking to toughen up

BEREA — The Browns’ offense hit on all cylinders Sunday and played fantastic football throughout a stirring 51-45 victory over Cincinnati.
As good as Cleveland’s offense was against the Bengals, though, its defense was equally bad.
The Browns gave up six touchdown passes to Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer one week after allowing Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger to throw for four scores in a 34-7 loss.
Permitting 10 passing TDs in just two games is so rare — and ghastly — that at least one member of Cleveland’s secondary found it hard to believe.
“We have? Oh, we hurtin’ then,” safety Mike Adams said. “It does sound bad, but Peyton Manning had 49 touchdowns one year and we’re still learning from each other here.
“Just like Coach (Mike) Singletary told me when I was in San Francisco, if you never got beat, you never got trucked or you never missed a tackle, then you’ve never played the game. It happens.”
Unfortunately for the Browns, it’s happened a lot as they’ve come out of the gate with a 1-1 record. They travel to Oakland to play the winless Raiders on Sunday afternoon.
Cleveland will enter the game ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in many defensive categories, including yardage (32nd), first downs (32nd), passing touchdowns (32nd), points (31st) and passing yards (30th).
Though no one will confuse Oakland’s offense for the high-powered Bengals or the ultra-efficient Steelers, it’s unclear if the Browns have the ability to stop any team from moving the ball at this point.
“It’s never understandable to give up that many points, that many yards — you don’t want to do that,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “That being said, (Cincinnati and Pittsburgh) have been able to put up at least 30 points a game on us the last couple years.
“I’m not justifying it by any means, shape, fashion or form. We’ve got to play lot better on defense if we’re going to win games.”
In particular, Cleveland’s defensive backs need to play better after being beaten for eight scores in the season’s first eight quarters.
Rookie cornerback Eric Wright was outmaneuvered by Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward for one TD and allowed Cincinnati’s T.J. Houshmandzadeh to score two.
Cornerbacks Leigh Bodden (two) and Kenny Wright (one), and safeties Brodney Pool (one) and Sean Jones (one) have also surrendered touchdowns. The Browns’ linebackers were responsible for the other two opposition TDs.
“I’ve played pretty solid, but I’m still young and I’m still learning,” said Eric Wright, a second-round draft choice from UNLV. “Teams are going to keep going after me until I can consistently make plays. It’s just a matter of practicing every day, putting yourself in the best position you can, and trying not to force things.”
Adding to the team’s secondary woes is a series of injuries that keep piling up.
Veteran Gary Baxter has yet to appear in a game as he recovers from reconstructive surgery on both knees, Bodden is nursing a groin problem, Adams has wrist and shoulder issues and Pool suffered a concussion against Cincinnati.
With Baxter and Pool not expected to play in Oakland, either Adams or Kenny Wright will make their first start at free safety with Cleveland.
“That’s where your depth comes in, you just have to go out there and execute,” starting strong safety Jones said. “We have some young guys, but we want to win now.
“It’s a long season and we have the talent to get the job done. It’s just a matter of doing the job we know we can do as a team.”
Contact Brian Dulik at 329-7135 or sports@ohio.net.