Browns’ defense could have opportunities to put heat on Gabbert

Posted by Vic Carucci on November 17, 2011 – 7:34 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

The Browns’ defense hasn’t exactly overwhelmed opposing quarterbacks with pressure this season.

Through nine games, the Browns have only 19 sacks. They did manage to do a decent job of applying pressure to Rams quarterback Sam Bradford last Sunday, but it still was a far cry from any sort of breakout performance.

The Browns could very well have something along those lines when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday.

The Jaguars haven’t done a particularly good job of protecting rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. In eight games, including seven starts, Gabbert has been sacked 21 times. In all, the Jags have allowed 24 sacks in nine games.

Some of the problem is with Jacksonville’s offensive line. Some of the problem is with Gabbert’s inexperience. And some of it is with his receivers.

The Jaguars have been utilizing a passing attack that has Gabbert taking some deeper drops and looking for big throws. It wouldn’t be a surprise to start seeing him look to connect on shorter and intermediate routes that allow him to get rid of the ball quicker.

But Gabbert also has had some issues with his pass catchers. His receivers have struggled to get open and have not been all that productive. The Jaguars’ top three targets of wide receivers Mike Thomas and Jason Hill, and tight end Marcedes Lewis struggled badly in in the Jags’ victory against the Colts last Sunday.

They’ve collectively fallen short in getting separation and making plays, and none of that has been helpful to Gabbert’s efforts to get the ball out of his hand and avoid being sacked.

The Browns’ ability to put some heat on Gabbert is likely to start with the play of their secondary. If Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, and the rest of Cleveland’s defensive backs are able to prevent Jacksonville’s passing attack from having much in the way of success, there should be some opportunities for the Browns to get in Gabbert’s face. It’s fair to say that Gabbert’s youth isn’t likely to serve him especially well under these circumstances because he might be inclined to hold the ball longer than he should.

Rookie defensive tackle Phil Taylor had one of his better games of the season last week when he registered a sack and a pair of hits on Bradford. The rest of the Browns’ defensive line and front seven for that matter also did a nice job of applying pressure on Bradford, who did not have the best protection and whose receivers weren’t allowed to do a whole lot of damage.

The same formula could work to the Browns’ advantage in a big way against Jacksonville.

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