Cleveland Browns: How to replace Desmond Bryant


The Cleveland Browns must look at several options for replacing Desmond Bryant in 2016.

The Cleveland Browns defensive line was dealt yet another blow when Desmond Bryant suffered an injury while lifting weights in a gym Tuesday, tearing one of his pectoral muscles. On Wednesday, the Browns announced that Bryant had surgery, and will not be able to play in the upcoming season.

The Browns will miss the seven-year veteran, as he starts for one of the thinner position groups on the roster. Bryant led the defense with six sacks in 2015, and was able to record 24 tackles on the year. The Harvard graduate was one of the brighter spots during an otherwise miserable season for the Browns in run defense. He was able to clog up the middle, and was bound to be an essential veteran presence for this defense seeking improvement.

As a result of Bryant’s injury, young Browns players will immediately be put to the test. It appears that one of the Browns’ first round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, Danny Shelton, will start at nose tackle. The 3-4 defense will feature two other starters on the defensive front, which will likely be decided through training camp competition.

The Browns have several options, but few, if any, who would bring the kind of productivity Bryant can warrant. Xavier Cooper and John Hughes are probably the front-runners at this point, but it’s very early in this process. The Browns will certainly take a prolonged look at rookies Carl Nassib and Dylan Wynn due to the injury, and both will experience their first taste of NFL action early on. With the great deal of substitutions the Browns like to use, having at least some sort of depth at this position is critical.

There are always more unconventional strategies the Browns could incorporate to atone for Bryant’s absence. Second round draft pick Emmanuel Ogbah played on Oklahoma State’s defensive line in college. Though the Browns brought him in with the intention of using him at the linebacker position, he’s certainly capable of putting a hand on the ground and getting to the passer if need be. Nate Orchard, Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger are also talented pass rushers, and can all chip in to fill the pass rushing need.

Though not an ideal situation, a positive in all of this is that a young Cleveland defensive lineman will be forced to step up and figure out the NFL game quickly. There will be errors, and this defense will at times suffer from the loss of Bryant, but the next wave of Browns’ defenders will have an opportunity to grow into professionals together. Plus, sometimes youth can have some positive impacts, as all of these players will all have something to prove.

Needless to say, the Browns will adjust, because they have no other choice. Any time a team loses a starting defensive lineman in a 3-4 defensive scheme it takes a collaborative effort to replace the player and match his effectiveness. Hopefully for the Browns, a group of young players can collectively achieve this.

As for Bryant, he’s assuredly not going to give up on his career in Cleveland. In a statement, the 30-year-old was in good spirits and appeared determined to return in 2017.

“While I’m frustrated and disappointed about having to miss some time out there with my teammates, I take comfort in knowing that preparations have already begun for an epic return,” Bryant said.

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This “epic return” Bryant speaks of would certainly be a welcome sight to all Browns fans.