2017 Positional Previews, Browns

2017 Browns Season Preview: Defensive Line

It was not a difficult decision to make on draft day for the No. 1 pick, and the Cleveland Browns made the easy choice in selecting Myles Garrett. Easily the biggest addition to a young defense, Garrett has played well this summer and throughout the preseason, making that number 1 selection look like the no brainer choice was the correct one.

Switching to a 4-3 base this year due to the hiring of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the defensive line has a much different look to it this year. Let’s go through some previews and examine at some of the changes across that defensive line.

Additions: Myles Garrett, Caleb Brantley, Larry Ogunjobi, Karter Schult, Brandon Thompson

Subtractions: Desmond Bryant, Cam Johnson

Projected starters: RE Myles Garrett, RDT Trevon Coley, LDT Jamie Meder, LE Emmanuel Ogbah

Garrett gets the nod at right end and will wreak havoc on left tackles for years to come.  His burst of speed allows him to get around less agile tackles while he has the power to help out in the run as well. Though he is a pass rusher, don’t be surprised if he drops back in coverage on some of Williams’ patented blitzes.

Coley and Meder are the projected starters, though Danny Shelton would normally be with the one’s if he was not going to miss the first few games with a knee injury. The injury to Shelton was in practice and originally was said to be a three to six-week injury, which would put him back at about Week 2 or 3. Coley and Meder should be able to handle the interior and therefore will allow Shelton to be fully healthy before he comes back.

Building off his fantastic rookie season, Emmanual Ogbah will move from outside edge rusher to left defensive end and cause pain for opposing quarterbacks. Pairing him with Garrett on the other side will give opposing offensive coordinators fits. It will be hard to block both and expect Garrett to get attention early, which should help Ogbah put up numbers and impact.

Possible contributors: Carl Nassib, (eventually) Danny Shelton, Nate Orchard, Brandon Thompson, Larry Ogunjobi

Nassib and Orchard will be backups on the ends and should see plenty of snaps as Gregg Williams switches his players in and out more than most. The idea is to keep players healthy and fresh to get the best results out of them. Nassib had an up and down in his rookie season, playing in 14 games but only starting three. He will look to add to his sack total of 2.5 from a year ago. Nate Orchard is a possible cut candidate due to a lingering groin injury, but if he makes the team, expect him to get some work, even though he is technically a third stringer.

Brandon Thompson is newer to the squad, as he has only been with the team for a few weeks. He was signed as a free agent mid way through the preseason after the Browns cut Desmond Bryant. Thompson looks to add some needed depth to the interior of the line that will have to go the first few weeks without Danny Shelton. Also look for rookie Larry Ogunjobi to get some run at defensive tackle early on. He has impressed in training camp and has a chance to earn some snaps.

Biggest strengthPass rush

With Garrett, the Browns had added firepower to an underrated area of the team. He has the chance to be a difference maker and, teaming with Ogbah, should be in the backfield and quarterbacks face’s all year. Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard also will bring their talents and abilities when they are on the field. These are all players with room to grow into beasts. Don’t be surprised if Garrett and Ogbah both have double digit sacks at years end.

Biggest weakness: Youth

Though youth brings potential, Shelton, Coley, and Thompson are the only players not in their freshman or sophomore years. This poses a problem with the idea that age for a defensive lineman allows him to get some tools and tricks. Garrett and Ogbah, while bursting with talent, could see some tackles using their over exuberance to their detriment.  With time comes experience and these youngsters will definitely be learning some important lessons early on.

Key player: Myles Garrett

Could it be anyone else? As he goes, so goes this defensive line. He will be challenged early on, single coverage to use an incorrect terminology, and as he gets past those tackles, the double teams, chip blockers and tight ends lining up above him will come his way. That will open up the other parts of the line to get to the quarterback and into the backfield, allowing others to get their hands dirty.

Overall opinion: This could be, along with the linebacking corp and the offensive line, one of the best units on the team. Health will be a big factor going forward, as Shelton will start out missing a few games, but if no other big injuries come down the pike, this is a deep squad of players that can influence the path of this team. Garrett is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate before he even starts his first game, with Ogbah and Nassib helping out on the edges. If Shelton can come back strong, the interior should be able to handle the rush as well.

2017 Browns Season Position Preview Series: Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line