Connect with us


Browns sound alarm: Tackling must be fixed in order for defense to stop getting run over

Coach Hue Jackson trumpeted his “anything-goes” siren periods before training camp. The horn would blare, tackling would commence and physicality and toughness would be built.
The tackling practice hasn’t made perfect in the first two preseason games.
Not even close.
The Browns saw many encouraging signs Thursday night in the 24-13 loss to Atlanta at FirstEnergy Stadium, but their run defense wasn’t one. With tackling the main issue, the run defense didn’t improve after a rough start against Green Bay, allowing the Falcons to total 224 yards, a 5.5 average and two touchdowns on the ground.
“We have to get better at tackling, we have to play stronger against the rush, or else teams are just going to feel like they can move the ball on us that way,” Jackson said Friday on a conference call. “Obviously it’s a sore thumb right now, we need to work through it. We’ll go back out to practice here soon and we’ll get back after it.”
Jackson said after the game he wanted to watch the film to count the missed tackles. He either couldn’t count that high or just declined to reveal the number.
“We had too many,” he said. “I promise you that.”
Cornerback Justin Gilbert had a clear shot at Devonta Freeman near the line of scrimmage but missed badly and allowed a 19-yard touchdown run on Atlanta’s first series. Linebacker Paul Kruger missed a tackle behind the line, and cornerback Tramon Williams, safety Rahim Moore and linebackers Joe Schobert, Cam Johnson and Justin Tuggle were among the many offenders.
“A lot of times the guy was in position to make the play and we just didn’t make it,” inside linebacker Christian Kirksey, who had four tackles, said after the game. “We’ve got to look at the film and then go back to work and practice and work on some of the techniques with tackling.
“A lot of guys were in the right position and you’ve just got to continue the play and finish the play.”
The starters played for all but the last drive of the first half, which saw the Falcons rush 16 times for 78 yards, a 4.9 average and a touchdown.
“Can’t allow someone to come into our house and rush over 200-plus yards,” outside linebacker Nate Orchard said. “We want to be a great defense and it all starts on the ground. We can’t let someone run that way on us. So we’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and at the same time we have to find who we are, who we want to be and come out and play the way we should.”
The run defense has been a two-week problem, as the Packers rushed for 151 yards on 41 carries. Jackson said he didn’t feel added frustration because the siren periods haven’t had their desired results.
“I’m glad I did have them because it showed me some things that I know we need to continue to work on,” he said. “Obviously we’re practicing against each other but now we’re playing against other teams. We just need to do a better job of taking the proper angles and wrapping up and finishing our tackles.”
The former regime drafted nose tackle Danny Shelton with the No. 12 pick last year to improve a run defense that’s been a perennial problem. He didn’t make an impact last year — 36 tackles, no sacks, no turnovers in 16 games and 15 starts — and hasn’t in the first two preseason games.
Shelton was the only starter to play into the second half against the Falcons, which suggested the coaches weren’t satisfied with his work.
“That was truly about just looking at different combinations,” Jackson said. “No, it had nothing to do with being disappointed about his performance.”
Shelton was limited to one tackle in his matchup with Falcons center Alex Mack. Former Browns offensive lineman Jason Pinkston, who was teammates with Mack, tweeted that Mack “did whatever he wanted to Shelton.”
“I don’t think it’s about just Danny. I think it’s about our defense, our unit,” Jackson said. “Our unit needs to play better. We need to tackle better. We need to make sure we get in the right spots and everybody do their job better.”
Jackson said he doesn’t think coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 scheme is the problem, and that they will continue to look at different personnel combinations to put the best group on the field.
“I don’t think that we have all the answers just yet or else we would have slowed some other teams down,” Jackson said. “But I think our guys understand what we need to fix, and I think they’ll come back in here champing at the bit to get better.”
Jackson admitted part of the reason for the poor start could be the constant shuffling of personnel in search of the perfect lineup.
“Some of that is true, but at the same time, this is the time to evaluate and find out what’s going to be the best for us as we get ready for the season,” he said. “And I think our first defense early in the game there are some things we did better. I think in the second half obviously with some of the younger guys it wasn’t as good as it could be.
“We’ve got to tackle better. We’ve got to do some of the fundamental things better and that’s going to be our charge this week.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


More in News