It is pretty clear a contest to the best player on offense for the Browns would be some combination of votes between Joe Thomas and Josh Gordon, but the defense is a different story. Because of effective picks from regimes past and the current front office’s efforts to really make it a strong unit, there are a number of viable candidates to who could be the best player on the unit.
Joe Haden: Has taken steps to be a lock down corner and be more consistent. Aside from a dropped interception he had in the Dolphins game, he has been extremely effective.
D’Qwell Jackson: The longest tenured member of the group, Jackson has been an effective player his entire career. The start of this season and last season, he has really stepped it up another level. Having effective defensive linemen in front of him has really allowed him to be a great player in addition to the leader of the defense. This past game, he had a forced fumble and has had two tipped passes that were intercepted by teammates.
Phil Taylor: The man in the middle has taken a huge step forward this year and become a far more consistent force. Having a good defensive line rotation has allowed him to stay fresher longer, but he has also made strides to be more consistent. He is a disruptive presence against the run, but he is a 335lb man who can rush the passer too and when he hits a quarterback, they tend to stay hit for a little while.
Jabaal Sheard: Sheard has been good since he got into the league. He was a good pass rusher as a rookie, improved as a run defender in his second year, and has made a seamless transition to being an outside linebacker. Sheard has taken another step forward as a run defender this year, but the times he drops are still a huge work in progress. This past week, he had a huge sack fumble and recovered the fumble Jackson caused before spraining his knee.
Paul Kruger: One of two big free agent acquisitions for the Browns, he has been a strong presence against the run who also can get after the quarterback. Kruger has been one of the more consistent players on defense and is constantly involved in plays.
Desmond Bryant: The less heralded of the free agent signings, Bryant has come in and been a dominant presence at defensive end. Bryant has been effective in a run defending capacity, but he has also been the most productive pass rusher in terms of sacks with 3.5.
There are 6 choices that could legitimately warrant an argument for the best player on this defense. 5 of them are in the front seven with a few other players that could be big time players for them like Billy Winn and Barkevious Mingo. Athyba Rubin, John Hughes and Craig Robertson have been effective cogs as well. They should be good for quite a while as well as Jackson is the oldest at just 29 years old. So, which is the best of the group?