Defensive Line: F
The only promising aspect of the play of the defensive line on Thursday night was the resurrection of Cleveland’s pass rush. Early on in the game, the Browns were able to stifle a strong passing attack by flushing Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco out of the pocket. They sacked him two times, and forced an interception as a result of solid pass rush.
But as is the case with everything in football, consistency confirms authenticity. This unit showed no consistency, since they completely fizzled in the second half. Against a beat-up offensive line with two in-game injuries, Danny Shelton and company could not stop the run even when the play call was obviously a handoff. As the game progressed, Terrance West looked more and more like Walter Payton.
The defensive line simply did not do their job. On 34 total rushing attempts made by the Ravens, it was this unit’s duty to halt or at least slow down opposing running backs before they burst into the second level. Since Shelton led the defensive line in tackles but was only the seventh leading tackler on the team, this clearly did not happen.
This means that six Cleveland defenders recorded more tackles than any defensive lineman, proof of just how successful these 34 rushing attempts were. It was as if the unit dissipated after the first half, as the starting three on the line combined for just six solo tackles.
Improvement on the defensive line begins with a unit ready to do their job. The fact that they failed to approach succeeding what they had set out for was physically detrimental to the rest of the defense which was forced to cover for the non-existent unit.