WFNY continues its grading period for the 2017 Cleveland Browns season by examining the defensive end unit on the defense. After going through the entire offense and beginning with the defense tackles last week, I will finish up the defensive line grades with the look at the defensive end position.
The Browns addressed this position with their most prized possession last offseason, the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. With that pick, the Browns selected Myles Garrett from Texas A&M. The Browns kept the rest of the position pretty much the same from the year before. So, with No. 1 pick Myles Garrett in the unit, how did the position perform in 2017? Let’s take a look at my grades and overall thoughts on the Browns defensive end unit in the 2017 season.
Overall Grade: B-
Myles Garrett: A-
31 tackles, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and seven sacks
Emmanuel Ogbah: B+
29 tackles, six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, a block kick and four sacks
Carl Nassib: C
31 tackles, six tackles for loss, one block kick and three sacks
Nate Orchard: C-
25 tackles, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and two sacks
Lavar Edwards: INC
Top Grade: Myles Garrett
The top grade in the defensive end unit goes to Myles Garrett. Garrett started off his rookie season with a bump in the road, missing the first four games due to injury. But, as his season went on and he grew more healthy and accustomed to the NFL game, his talent really showed itself. He played pretty well for his first season in the NFL, playing a balanced game as a pass rusher and ruin defender. He was so good that he almost immediately received extra attention from the opposing blocking scheme. His impact may have not registered in the stats, but he made his presence felt by opening up opportunities for his teammates and forcing the offense to go away from him. Garrett led the team in pressures with 37, according to Pro Football Focus and earned the 12th highest grade from PFF amongst all edge defenders in the NFL. The sky is the limit for his immense talent.
Biggest Strength: Starting Lineup
The biggest strength in the defensive end unit is the starting lineup of Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. The Browns may possess the best young duo of pass rushers in the game. Both players are physical freaks who have shown in just a short time in their careers that they can be real difference makers for the defense. The team did not get to see the two together for many games, but the potential with this duo is immense. Garrett was the better of the two, showing more consistency. Ogbah started slowly, but really played well in the last few games before he got injured and was lost for the season. Both men are complete players with the ability to be productive in pass rush and run defense situations. I am extremely bullish over these two edge defenders. Both of them are ascending talents with some of the highest ceilings on the entire team. This is a big strength for the unit.
Biggest Need: Pass Rushing Depth
The biggest need for the unit is pass rushing depth. The Browns had 34 total sacks as a team. But, the edge defenders accounted for just 16 of the sacks with Garrett gaining seven sacks and Ogbah notching four sacks. The rest of the unit just posted five total sacks. The Browns need to add a player or two who can be a threat in pass rushing situations. When Ogbah and Garrett were not on the field, the team did not have a consistent pass rusher who the defense can rely on. There are a lot of nice options in free agency the Browns could target to address this need.
The Browns defensive end unit played well in 2017, but the position is all about upside and potential. The position began and ended in 2017 with the young duo of Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. Both players missed a chunk of the season, but when they were on the field, both edge rushers showed glimpses of their immense talent. Garrett was more consistent than Ogbah, but Ogbah seemed to turn it on in the last few games he played in before getting hurt. Carl Nassib had an up and down season, but overall he performed OK as a backup and as a starter filling in for the injuries to the starters. He was good against the run with his ability to penetrate into the backfield, but he was limited as a pass rusher. Nate Orchard had spots of good play, but overall he was not productive enough as a backup edge defender, in my opinion.
This offseason will be important for this unit. Garrett, Ogbah and Nassib are young defenders who need time, coaching and development to improve on their skills. Also, especially in regards to Garrett and Ogbah, the offseason will be used to get healthy. This offseason should be a good catapult for the position to become a real strength on the team for next season. But, the position needs to add depth and I think free agency will be the way the Browns can improve in this area. With an addition of a veteran edge defender, this position should be a really exciting position to watch next season and one of the best units on the team.
Both Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah will make the Pro Bowl next season and perform together as one of the best edge defender duo in the league.