Defensive Line: Ugly. Best word to describe it. Teams are gashing us on the ground and it all starts up front. Robaire Smith has had a few nice moments, and a few moments where he was absolutely destroyed. Ethan Kelley stepped into the starting lineup 2 weeks ago against New England, and while not the man mountain Ted Washington is, he's actually able to move, something Thunder Ted can't right now. Shaun Smith...weren't you supposed to be the NT of the future for this defense? Instead you're playing at left end? And Orpheus Roye...I know you're getting up there in age, but please, just don't get destroyed. As it was with the offense, the line is holding the rest of the defense back. Grade: D
Linebackers: Talent abound in this unit, albeit young and inexperienced talent. Andra Davis was one of the better LB's in the league, and while he is a great leader who the troops rally around, he's just not that good anymore. D'Qwell Jackson has been solid save for a few games where he was dominated by more able interior lineman and that's going to happen when you're undersized and the teams don't have to focus on the other inside backer. Leon Williams is an absolute stud, they need him in the lineup ASAP, but the problem is, as we've seen in the secondary, pure talent doesn't trump knowledge, and next year, he'll be the man, this year, he's going to have to come off the bench.
Wimbley has been disappointing. While there have been flashes of dominance, too many times he's been neutralized, and some of that isn't his fault. Against the Pats, he was nonexistent because the Browns only rushed 4 for the entire game rather than throwing in more blitz packages to get to Brady. Peek is an able rusher and McGinnest has shown a few glimpses of his past, but he's clearly over the hill. MORE BLITZING. The pass rush will help both the secondary and line if we could get anything. Wimbley is getting double teamed and we need Peek to take advantage of the one-on-one matchup with the right tackle to get the QB. The better the pass rush becomes, the less time our secondary will have to worry about coverage and the more the opponent's running game will be stopped behind the line. Grade: C
Secondary: Improving each week. Brian Russell was a huge loss, he got everyone in position, and now the young guys are learning. E-Wright, after getting burned in the first few games, has really turned into a stud. He is a physical corner who isn't afraid to make tackles and his coverage is becoming top notch. Another strike for Savage in the 2007 Draft. Bodden has stayed relatively healthy and is one of the better lockdown corners in the division. Sean Jones and Brodney have been solid, but both need to reign in the aggressiveness and start making sure they stay disciplined as to avoid the big play. While they still have a ways to go, progress is being made and should be a strength in the future. Grade: C+
FG unit: Dawson is solid. Better than last year. About all you can say. T he blocked FG at the end of the Raiders game was inexcusable. Grade: C
Overall Grade: C-
Possible Pro Bowlers: none
Biggest Surprise: Eric Wright's quick learning curve.
Biggest Disappointment: Defensive Line
Defensive MVP: Leigh Bodden