How good is the Cleveland Browns defense?
In the words of Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm, it appears that the Browns defense in 2023 is “Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good!”
Obviously, the Browns defense looks really good to Browns fans when we watch the game, but what do the analytics or statistics suggest after 13 games?
The statistics seem to confirm what Browns fans already know.
The Browns defense is “pretty, pretty, pretty good!”
So what do the statistics tell us?
One important thing that we learn from the stats is that the Browns have the number one defense in yards allowed.
The Browns have given up the least average yards per game in the NFL. Specifically, the Browns are only giving up an average of 263 yards per game. In fact, they are one of only five teams in the NFL that are giving up less than 300 yards per game on average.
Additionally, the Browns have the top defense in the NFL against both the rush and the pass. They are only allowing an average of 103.3 yards per game rushing and 159.7 yards passing.
Also, the Browns defense has only given up 183 first downs on the season. They are the only team in the NFL to give up less than 200 first downs this season.
Although the Browns are giving up the least yards, there are certainly areas where the Browns defense can improve.
One area of improvement that is possible is lowering the amount of points scored by the opponent.
The Browns defense ranks 14th in points allowed on average during the 2023 season. On average the Browns are giving up 20.9 points per game. The teams giving up the least amount of points are those fans would consider legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Leading the NFL in lowest average points allowed per game are San Francisco (15.8), Baltimore (16.8), Kansas City (17.5), and Dallas (17.9).
Another area that Browns Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz has suggested needs some improvement is trying to get more pressure on the quarterback.
"I think when it’s all said and done, we’re trying to judge by more what their effective pass rush rate is, their pressures and things like that. We obviously want sacks and to be able to finish, but sometimes, again, if the quarterback decides to burn the ball and put the punt team on the field as a pass rusher, does it make it less of a good pass rush for you? So I think we look at a little bit more stuff like that," said Schwartz in his December 7 press conference.
Schwartz emphasized that a key reason for trying to get more pressure on the quarterback is because more pressure can hopefully help the Browns get more takeaways.
"The biggest thing is the more you’re around the quarterback, the higher the percentage chance for turnovers,” said Coach Schwartz.
“And our turnovers haven’t been where they need to be either. And I think that can all get spurred by being around the quarterback more.”
An advanced statistic that measures the concept that Coach Schwartz has talked about is quarterback hurries and quarterback knockdowns. Quarterback pressures is an advanced statistic which combines sacks, quarterback hurries and quarterback knockdowns.
For the year, the Browns have 33 quarterback hurries which ranks 22nd in the NFL. The top ranked NFL teams in quarterback hurries in 2023 are last year's Super Bowl teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kansas City leads the NFL in 2023 with 57 hurries and the Eagles are just one behind with 56 hurries.
Another metric that is important in analyzing how much pressure the Browns are getting on the quarterback is quarterback knockdowns.
Currently, the Browns are ranked fifth in the NFL in quarterback knockdowns with 45. Leading the NFL in quarterback knockdowns are Miami and San Francisco (52), Buffalo (49), Houston (47), and Baltimore (46). The Browns are tied with Philadelphia and Detroit who both also have 45 quarterback knockdowns.
The other metric that makes up quarterback pressures is sacks. Currently, the Browns rank sixth in the NFL with 38 sacks. Leading the NFL in sacks this season are the Baltimore Ravens with 49 sacks.
When you analyze quarterback pressure which combines sacks, hurries, and knockdowns, the Browns are ranked tenth in the league in quarterback pressures with 116.
Last year's Super Bowl teams also lead the quarterback pressure category in 2023. Kansas City has 142 quarterback pressures, while the Philadelphia Eagles have 138 quarterback pressures.
So, hopefully, over the next four games the Browns will continue to keep improving in getting even more pressure on the quarterback and continue their amazing season on the defensive side of the ball.
And of course, the Browns defense is pretty, pretty, pretty good!