BEREA — The defense that had been a bright spot for much of the season has turned into just another black hole in another dark season.
The Browns have dropped to 10th overall on defense, 16th vs. the run and ninth vs. the pass. The run defense has fallen off a cliff.
The Browns were in the top five for much of the year. Then came 179 yards to the Bears and 208 Sunday to the Jets in the 24-13 loss. The Browns are allowing 110.7 per game on the ground, which jumped from 98.0 before Sunday.
They led the league for part of the season with yards per rush, but have fallen to sixth at 3.8.
“Each week it’s different. There’s not just one specific thing that you can put your finger on,” coach Rob Chudzinski said Monday when asked the problem the last two weeks. “With yesterday’s game, we got blocked out of our gaps at times, we mis-fit some of the runs and we lost contain. At times we had guys trying to do too much.
“It’s definitely something that needs to get fixed. It was a key to the game, us stopping the run. We went in and committed a lot of guys in the box and so it’s something that is disappointing and again it’s something we need to fix.”
Chudzinski can’t find solace in the pass game, particularly the pass rush. The Browns blitzed Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith repeatedly, but didn’t register a sack or hit.
“We weren’t able to get pressure,” Chudzinski said. “We had a lot of one-on-ones we didn’t win. That was a key to the game — the line of scrimmage and our inability to get pressure on him. We did bat a few balls down, but we didn’t get enough pressure to make a difference.”
Chudzinski didn’t think effort was the problem.
“I think they did a good job. It just came down to the one-on-one battles,” he said.
Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 pick in the draft, has only one sack in the past seven games and five for the year.
“Barkevious is going through a lot of things a rookie making the transition to the NFL as well as learning to play that position (goes through),” Chudzinski said. “So he’s working his way through that. I think the production will come up.”
Left guard Jason Pinkston reported symptoms Monday morning and was diagnosed with a concussion. He missed the first nine games with a high ankle sprain.
He started and played most of the game Sunday, but rookie seventh-rounder Garrett Gilkey played a couple of series as part of a planned rotation.
** Chudzinski said cornerback Joe Haden aggravated a hip pointer “a little bit.”
“We’ll see how it is in the next couple of days, to move forward on that,” he said.
** Nose tackle Phil Taylor has a concussion.
** Tight end Jordan Cameron, who sustained a concussion Dec. 15 against the Bears, hasn’t been cleared and remains in the league’s concussion protocol.
** Defensive lineman John Hughes has a knee sprain.
** Defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi will have surgery this week to repair a leg bone injury suffered when he was run into on the sideline.
Chudzinski said he’s reached out to receiver Davone Bess, who was placed on the non-football illness list Saturday.
“He’s going through a family, personal matter, personal issue,” Chudzinski said. “We’re going to give him all the support we can through this. Beyond that, I’m not going to go into any detail, that’s up to Davone to talk about.”