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Mailbag: Is a top-10 defense realistic? The veteran void? Who’s to blame?

Q: If our players on D can get healthy and accustomed to coordinator Gregg Williams’ scheme, could we have a top-10 defense by the end of the year?

— @tganson

A: The Browns already rank No. 5 overall in yardage (304.8), despite playing four games without Myles Garrett, three without Jamie Collins and one without Danny Shelton. The key will be improving key scoring statistics.

The Browns rank tied for 25th in scoring defense (24.8 points per game) and last in the red zone (12 touchdowns in 14 trips). I have no doubt Garrett and Collins will help significantly. Reaching the top 10 after a bad start could be out of reach, especially with an offense that puts the defense in tough spots, so a realistic goal should be top 15.

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Q: Scott, why are the Browns not going after reliable free agents like WR Victor Cruz or LB NaVorro Bowman?

— @ClevelandBred52

A: The Browns had several chances to go after Cruz but preferred to go younger at wideout. I believed all along they needed another veteran in addition to Kenny Britt – Pierre Garcon would’ve been ideal — but Sashi Brown went with youth. Cruz has dealt with injuries for the last few years, so he may not have anything left in the tank.

As for Bowman, who was released Friday, the Browns already have a lot of money invested at linebacker with Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey. With the complete rebuild struggling along, don’t get your hopes up about signing veterans.

Q: Candidly, wouldn’t you agree all this losing is the fault of Sashi and Hue and they should be named as chief architects of this regression?

— @JimmyHaslam (parody account)

A: I believe there is plenty of blame to go around, starting with owner Jimmy Haslam (the real one) and continuing throughout the organization.

But when I play the blame game, I dump the majority on head of football operations Sashi Brown, because the roster he’s constructed the last two years hasn’t been nearly good enough. And the 24 draft picks over the last two years haven’t yielded nearly enough talent.

As for coach Hue Jackson, he needs to do much better with game management and play calls in critical situations.

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.

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