BEREA - The spotlight never seems to be off the starting quarterback in Cleveland for the obvious reason of poor performances and losing seasons.
Now might be a good time to re-direct the spotlight and focus it on the defense. An easy schedule can skew statistics, but it shouldn't detract from what the Browns have done through six games.
After holding the Seattle Seahawks to 137 yards in a 6-3 win last Sunday, the Browns are ranked fourth in overall defense and second against the pass. Even the long-maligned run defense is holding up fairly well with a ranking of 19th.
"I'm just glad they're playing well," coach Pat Shurmur said a day after the offense needed plenty of help. "I think the scheme is sound. I've said all along that the coaches do an excellent job. We have some young and very talented players.
"The leadership that D'Qwell Jackson is providing is outstanding. We have a secondary that challenges, and that's important, and a defensive line that's improving."
The AFC North Division teams hold the top four spots in overall defense. The Cincinnati Bengals are first, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and the Browns.
There are still weak spots that can be exploited on the Browns' defense, but the improvement in one season has been remarkable.
"I just want a defense that helps us win games," Shurmur said when asked if the unit can reach an elite level. "It's a fun thing to talk about, statistically and all that. I think we have a chance to be a fine defense all the way through the year. There have been some very well-played defensive games so far."
The next order of business is to get more production out of the offense, which is ranked 23rd overall. Quarterback Colt McCoy seems to have reached a plateau or taken a step backward. He has a passer rating of 75.4, which places him 28th in the NFL.
McCoy was sacked five times by the Seahawks, and there were several other times when he was forced to run or throw on the move. McCoy has also had to deal with a receiving corps that lacks someone that can stretch defenses and make big plays.
McCoy is well aware that team President Mike Holmgren recently said his performance will be judged at the end of the season, at which time a decision will be made whether to stick with him as the starter or head in another direction.
"That's exactly how you're supposed to evaluate it," McCoy said. "I think he would say that for every individual on our team. We're going to play this season, and we're going to evaluate everyone across the board. I see that as a great thing."
Holmgren also talked about possibly adding an offensive coordinator to the staff next season. Shurmur, who's handling that role this season, is open to anything that would help the cause. He pointed out that the addition of a coordinator doesn't mean he'll give up calling plays, noting that the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints have coordinators that don't call plays.
"I think it's a normal structure for the head coach to call plays," Shurmur said. "I have guys on my staff that are doing things in a way that I would expect to see next year if we have an offensive coordinator. A team (the Saints) scored 62 points last night and their head coach calls the plays."
INJURY REPORT: Kicker Phil Dawson (thigh) had difficulty last Sunday and might be limited in practice this week, but there are no plans to bring in another kicker. Running back Peyton Hillis (hamstring) ran on Monday. Guard Shawn Lauvao (knee) is day-to-day, as are receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (concussion), tight end Benjamin Watson (concussion) and safety Ray Ventrone (hamstring). Cornerback Joe Haden played after missing a game with a sprained knee. He came through the game in good shape.