Cleveland Browns defense tops quarterly report card

Sep 26, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, United States; Cleveland Browns punter Jamie Gillan (7) and kicker Chase McLaughlin (3) celebrate after McLaughlin kicks a basket in the second half against the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With the season nearing the end of its first quarter, here’s how each of the Cleveland Browns’ units ranks.

The Cleveland Browns are 3-1 in their first four games and have a good chance of improving that record in the weeks to come before tougher opponents reach their schedule. Although they are winning matches, they still don’t really have a dominant performance in all three phases of the game at the same time.

Instead, the Browns win because one unit is able to cover up the faults and mistakes of another during a game. For example, in Week 4 against the Minnesota Vikings, when Baker Mayfield and the attacker struggled to move the ball at times, the defense played extremely well and ended a rather powerful Vikings attack.

That said, here’s how the three Cleveland Browns units are doing in the first four weeks of the season, including how they might improve that rating in their upcoming games.

Cleveland Browns Special Teams Rating: C +

The Cleveland Browns special teams unit was the opposite of the special ensemble. In fact, if you took out the impact of kicker Chase McLaughlin, that unit’s rating would be much lower.

McLaughlin was signed to camp to be a kicker contender with Cody Parkey, but after Parkey was cut due to injury, the job was all his. After appearing tottering in his preseason reps, McLaughlin was nothing short of a surprise star, making his seven field goal attempts in four games, including one for 57 yards in Week 3.

Beyond McLaughlin, special teams have been a unit for the Browns that could take some work. Bettor Jamie Gillan, nicknamed “The Scottish Hammer,” has been anything but a hammer, scoring just 41.1 yards per punt this season, the third-worst average in the league.

Gillan’s inability to turn the court at times leaves his defense with a big challenge, forcing them to step up and stop offenses with shorter pitch.

The kicking and kicking teams, however, played fairly average. Returns Demetric Felton and Donovan Peoples-Jones haven’t made spectacular returns, but still seem to gain positive yards when they’re able to kick, giving the offense a better position on the court.

Overall, the Cleveland Browns special teams unit isn’t a great unit, but it’s a useful part of their squad. If the team finds a star player who can make a big play on occasion and a bettor who can turn the pitch, they are blessed to be one of the best units in the NFL. For now, they will have to be content to be in the middle of the pack.

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