The Fujita Factor

By: Will Burge

A win is a win. It is as simple as that. Some of the people on my very own station will tell you that this team has regressed in the last two weeks, and there is probably some evidence to support that notion. However, I do not totally agree with that statement.

The Steelers narrowly escaped the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. These wins happen in the NFL. First of all, the Browns victory over Carolina is 25% of the season win total. Ugly or not, that is the hard truth. Also, the Browns won without three of the five most important players on their team.

1.       Colt McCoy – This young man has quickly become an important piece of the offense and overall success of this team. He is a poised leader who does not turn the ball over and manages a game plan to perfection. He and Hillis are the two most important players on offense.

2.       Josh Cribbs – The Browns sorely miss his play making ability on special teams and in special offensive packages. Whether he actually makes the plays or not is beside the point, the defense must focus on him when he is on the field.

3.       Scott Fujita – The rest of this entry will focus on the huge impact that Scott Fujita has on the Browns defensive unit and team as a whole.

Browns Linebacker Scott Fujita

When you first read Fujita’s name on this list you may have been surprised or think that I am slightly off my rocker. You wouldn’t be the first. This doesn’t mean that I am not right.

Fujita was injured in the first half of the loss to the Jets. At that time, the Browns were not only competing in the game but dishing out a physical brand of punishment that Rex Ryan’s boys are normally known for.

Let’s start with the leadership ability that Scott brings to the defense. Sheldon Brown, a nine-year NFL veteran, is considered one of the true gamers in the NFL’s secondary ranks. He essentially admitted that this defense lacks continuity without the Super Bowl winning veteran linebacker.

“When Scott went down, it kinda hurt us a little bit,” said Brown to the media after the Carolina win. “He’s a really vocal leader on this football team. We’ve just got to continue to grow as a team and communicate.”

The second half collapses in the past three games point directly to the fact that there is not a dominant voice or player to rally behind on the football field. This is a defense with talented youth on the line and in the secondary. Youth is exciting, but when the going gets tough, the experienced get EVERYONE going.

David Bowens, a 12 year defensive veteran, explained to the Plain Dealer that this team gets down on itself when things don’t go right.

“At times we get bummed out because of the turnovers. We practice these situations every day. The focus has to be there. It’s a lack of communication and tackling,” said Bowens.

Who was the communicator in those big wins over the Saints and Patriots? Scott Fujita.

If you’re more a stats person then here are the cold hard facts in that department. Fujita’s main responsibility, besides being the glue defensively, is to cover backs and tight ends in the passing game and stop the run.

In the two games before Fujita was injured the Browns held those opponents to 126 yards rushing combined. The Saints had 58 yards rushing and the Patriots had 68. Against the Saints, Jeremy Shockey was held to 2 receptions for 30 yards. Fujita is not solely responsibly but he was a major contributor.

Fujita Has Been A Difference Maker

Fujita Has Been A Difference Maker

In the three games after Fujita was hurt the Browns have allowed 172 yards (Jets), 370 yards (Jaguars), and 326 yards (Panthers) rushing.

During the Jets game Ladanian Tomlinson (running back) and Dustin Keller (tight end) combined for 75 yards receiving. Against the Jags, they allowed Mercedes Lewis (tight end) to catch 5 balls for 66 yards and a touchdown. Against the Panthers, Mike Goodson (a running back) caught 8 balls for 81 yards. Once again, this isn’t all because Fujita wasn’t on the field, but it sure had a lot to do with it.

At the very least, a team that has only made the playoffs once since re-entering the NFL could always use a linebacker who is less than one year removed from a Lombardi Trophy.

Injuries happen all the time in the NFL, but what type of team you are depends on how you bounce back from them. This week the Browns bounced back by winning. Ugly or not, it was the best outcome you could ask for.

Follow Will Burge on Twitter @WillBurge

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4 Comments

  1. Great job Will…. Best blog on this site… could not have said it better… those others at your station who slam the win are Pro Holmgren and anti Mangini so I expect it from them… this team is namged up, and missing its best QB and still lacks talent

    • I agree but, in the same breath every team has injuries its how you play when those guys go down that makes the difference between the teams that are in the playoff every year and the teams that are not.

  2. Hey Nice read Will, you are a great assett to the station.
    First Rodney, he did state that maybe not in the same words as you but he did state that. and you have to remember we are a young team right now and Scott is a captain for the defense. Robaire SMith is the other and hes been on IR for a while. young teams tend to have problems when the vocal leaders arent around. by next year this team will be a bit deeper and a bit more experienced. and some of these injuries wouldnt matter.

    I agree that Scott is a bigger loss to the defense than anyone other than Colt on the offense. and heres to him wanting to be in Cleveland and believing that this was a good team. i hope Scott can get us to the playoffs next season and when hes back i truley feel the defense will not be giving up big plays late in the fourth quarter the way they have the last 2 weeks

  3. Will, nice aritcle…. I was just surpised you failed to mention the Jags MJD 75 yard screen pass that set up the winning score for the Jacksonville… Maybe if Fugita is out there that play is shut down.. Screens have killed the Browns lately, maybe a lot of has to do with the defense missing the captain.. Even if Fujita isnt making the play, he is probably barking out threats to the defence like screens and TE delayed releases..


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