It didn’t take Joe Woods long to find a new defensive coordinator job after being let go by the Cleveland Browns shortly after the season ended.
Woods is expected to be the next defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, reuniting him with head coach Dennis Allen, who he coached under with the Raiders.
It’s an interesting hire by the Saints, which comes after a very inconsistent stretch for Woods with the Browns. Cleveland finished ranked 20th in points allowed and 14th in yards allowed, mostly thanks to a late-season surge. During the team’s early slump, blown defensive assignments were a significant issue. Browns safety John Johnson III alluded to the play-calling in key situations being the problem.
“I wouldn’t say it was too complex schematically, but I would say in certain moments in the game, yeah, maybe we didn’t need to trick ourselves trying to trick the other team,” Johnson said. “Maybe we could just line up, get our cleats in the ground and make plays, ’cause that’s when we’re at our best. When we’re panicking and stuff like that that’s when you see you guys running wide open. When we got our cleats on the ground we’re a pretty good defense.”
The Saints had co-defensive coordinators last year in Kris Richard and Ryan Nielsen, who are both no longer with the team after New Orleans finished 7-10.
Browns Replaced Woods With Jim Schwartz
Something needed to change for the Browns defense, which has talent at key positions with guys like Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. The team is hired veteran Jim Schwartz to replace Woods.
“The secret sauce is getting guys playing together and that accountability that goes into it,” Schwartz said during his introductory press conference. “I would say this, if I’m doing a good job, we’ll hold our best players the most accountable. And if you start from that position, then everything else is gravy.”
Schwartz spent the last two seasons as a senior defensive assistant with the Titans. He has previously been a defensive coordinator with the Titans, Bills and Eagles, building those units into top 10 defenses.
“Jim has seen defensive success at each of his coaching stops because he knows how to get the best out of his players and will match scheme to suit strengths,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said after the hire. “Jim is a passionate leader who believes in teaching fundamentals. We’re excited about the vast experience he brings to our staff to meet the demands it takes to consistently defend the varying offenses in the AFC North and across the National Football League.”
Browns Need to Rebuild Defensive Line
A focus for the Browns this offseason will be rebuilding their defensive line around Garrett. The stellar pass-rusher had 16 sacks a season ago but the Browns’ as a whole struggled getting consistent pressure on the quarterback and were also routinely gashed on the ground.
The Browns will need to bulk up at defensive tackle and also find a replacement for Jadeveon Clowney, who will be a free agent this offseason. He likely won’t be welcomed back by the Browns after a late season tirade took aim at the coaching staff and Garrett.
Cleveland understands the need and general manager Andrew Berry said the team will take a close look at how to go about addressing it.
“That is certainly a position group that we do value and we will continue to value, no different than the offensive line on the offensive side of the ball,” Berry said in his season-ending press conference. “We will continue to invest in it and make those decisions at the appropriate time.”