Perhaps the most amazing part of Cleveland's 8-5 season is that the Browns have a legitimate shot at a wild-card playoff berth despite fielding the league's worst defense.
Coach Romeo Crennel didn't sugarcoat that fact when asked by an out-of-town media member last week what concerned him about the defense.
''The thing that concerns me is that we're not good,'' Crennel said. ''We're not good enough. We're going to work and try to get better -- to get guys to play technique longer and get them in position better, to fit better. If we can do some of those things, we'll be better.''
Pressed on why the defense is not good, Crennel added, ''All you have to do is look at the stats. When you look at the stats, we can't stop the run and we don't rush the passer efficiently enough. Those are some of the things.''
He didn't seem to care how that message goes over in the locker room.
''I don't ask them. They know how I feel about them,'' he said. ''They know we need to be more consistent. The stats are what they are. It doesn't do you any good to sugarcoat them. We need to be more consistent on defense. At times, our defense has played well and we've made some stops when we had to that helped the team win some games. But consistently, we haven't been able to do it enough.
''The kids on defense, they've worked very hard and are very conscientious. They want to be good. We just aren't consistent enough.''
In a 24-18 victory over the New York Jets Sunday, Cleveland surrendered 387 yards, 175 in the fourth quarter. The Browns have allowed a 100-yard rusher in 10 of their 13 games, most recently the Jets' Thomas Jones, who totalled 106 yards on 24 carries. Crennel attributed some of those 175 yards to the Jets running against the sub defense.
But looking at the bigger picture, he can't pinpoint one problem.
''It’s always a number of things - injuries are one,'' Crennel said. ''Sometimes it's gap control, sometimes it's run fits, sometimes it's pursuit angles, you just keep harping on those things. When you have different defenses, guys end up playing multiple positions. You now have a defensive back playing a linebacker position and he has to learn all the linebacker run fits. All of that goes together and it's some of the reason for the inconsistencies.''
Whatever the reasons, Cleveland will certainly spend most of its time and money in free agency and the draft upgrading the defense, even if it fails to acquire the No. 1 pick it gave up for quarterback Brady Quinn.
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