Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett and Nate Orchard could be a dynamic duo

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns defense had its first taste of action against the New Orleans Saints and a pair of defensive ends came through with flying colors.

One of the major storylines heading into the Cleveland Browns first preseason game was the professional debut of Myles Garrett. While all the focus was on Garrett, the great play of backup defensive end Nate Orchard went a bit unnoticed.

At the right defensive end position, it is imperative the player can rush the passer effectively. As most teams run the ball toward the left side of the defense, it is important that the right defensive end is disciplined enough to hold their position to prevent the cut back by a running back.

Against the pass, the right defensive end is the blindside rusher usually facing the offense’s best pass blocker. Rushing the passer is the primary job of the right defensive end.

Starting with Garrett, his debut did not disappoint as he showed all the reasons why he was the No. 1 overall pick. At times during the game he beat his opponent with speed. He showed great quickness on inside moves that put him in the backfield virtually untouched. He also used power moves to push the offensive tackle into the passer. Garrett was everything that was advertised. He should hold down the right defensive end position for years to come.

One surprising outcome of last Thursday’s game was the play of Orchard, who has spent the past few seasons trying to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 base system. Orchard was a natural 4-3 defensive end in college, and transitioning to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ system has been a great move for him.

Against the Saints, Orchard showed the talent that made him a second-round pick. He lined up primarily as the right defensive end in a wide 9 technique, an alignment that allowed him to utilize his speed as an advantage against the bigger, but often slower, offensive tackle. Orchard was credited with a half-sack and a couple of tackles for loss.

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But there is an obvious flaw to Orchard’s game. He remains too small to hold his own one-on-one against an offensive tackle and the power to hold the line of scrimmage. Ironically, it was this flaw that kept him from shining as an outside linebacker. His size prevents him from setting an effective edge against the run.

For all his struggles against the run, Orchard’s value for this current Browns defense will be as a pass-rushing specialist. His speed off the edge and quickness at the point of attack should allow him to play an effective backup role to Garrett.

While he is currently listed as third string behind Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib on the unofficial depth chart list, Orchard could really thrive would be in a complimentary role with Garrett. Both Garrett and Orchard are extremely quick off the ball, and can use a speed rush along with quick swim and rip moves. The Browns need to find a way to use them both on the field in pass-rush situations.

Just think of what the Browns could do with both Orchard and Garrett lined up on the edge. Garrett could be the traditional right defensive end along with Orchard lined up in a two-point stance as an outside linebacker. The possibilities of defensive line stunts and games with Garrett and Orchard could be lethal for an offensive line.

The problem such a combination raises for an offensive lineman is the amount of speed and quickness on the edge. At minimum, the protection would have to be changed to put a tight end or running back on the edge to help. Orchard or Garrett should overmatch any running back or tight end.

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An additional benefit would be one-on-one blocks on the opposite side for defensive ends Ogbah and Nassib. Blocking Ogbah one on one is an advantage for Ogbah. Nassib would be in a better position to be able to pressure the passer if he is only facing a single blocker.

Orchard and Garrett on the same side could be a dynamic pass rushing duo and Williams should find a way to get them on the field together.