Dan Labbe highlights noticeable improvements on Browns’ defense during preseason

Cleveland Browns quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (17) runs the ball against Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Christian Elliss (53) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

CE: Areas of improvement you have seen over the course of the Browns preseason?

DL: The Browns defense showed up in Philadelphia on Monday and looked like they belonged. That matters because last year the Eagles pushed the Browns around on both sides of the ball in their joint practices.

This year, especially in the first practice, the Browns defensive line came to play. Even with Myles Garrett banged up — he hurt his foot on Monday and didn’t do team drills on Tuesday — the defensive line delivered on its promise thanks to Za’Darius Smith, Ogbo Okoronkwo and Dalvin Tomlinson. They rarely allowed Jalen Hurts to get comfortable.

In the secondary, Martin Emerson Jr. didn’t back down from any challenge and there were times when Hurts didn’t have open receivers when he was looking to take a shot. Yes, the Eagles hit some plays, but overall the defense looked the way it was supposed to look.

The biggest area of improvement is the defense as a whole, but especially the defensive line. If the Browns reach the heights they’re capable, we might say at the end of the year that Jim Schwartz was their biggest offseason acquisition. The performance of the defense so far in camp is a step in that direction.