Cleveland Browns: Finding bright spots in the line play

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns dropped yet another game. However, one bright spot has been the development of the offensive and defensive lines.

Depending on how one views this season (is it about wins or development?), the Cleveland Browns have been successful in getting younger players more experience and growth while getting on-the-job training. Whether this is good or bad depends on the eye of the beholder.

But one thing is for sure, both the offensive line and defensive line have played significantly better this season. Minus the black hole that is left tackle (more on this later), the offensive line has stabilized at center and right guard. The defensive line has figured out how to set an edge (an issue that has plagued this team for years) leading to a much improved run defense.

But as to Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, both the offensive and defensive lines showed reasons for optimism despite the abysmal present. Yes, the Browns are now 0-14, but there a few bright spots along the lines after Sunday’s game.

Before getting to the bright spots, there is one question that must be asked. Why does Spencer Drango still start at left tackle?

Why does Spencer Drango even get on the field?

The obvious answer is that he is a second-year player with the most experience as a backup tackle. He is also playing because Roderick Johnson, who could be a starter in the future, was injured in the preseason.

Johnson on injured reserve left Zach Banner as a possible replacement. Banner was a fifth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2017 draft. Banner has played right tackle more than left tackle.

Which circles back to the question: Why is Spencer Drango on the field?

Drango plays due to the myopic view that this season is about winning and not player development. Drango did give Hue Jackson the best chance to win immediately after left tackle Joe Thomas was injured. But had Jackson been forward thinking, he could have gone a couple of weeks of growing pains with Shon Coleman at left tackle and Zach Banner at right tackle. Had he had the vision to think long-term, this team would have a better overall offensive line.

And maybe quarterback DeShone Kizer gets hit from his blindside less. A little vision and forward thinking around Week 7 of the season may have landed the Browns in a much better position today.

Browns fans need to R-E-L-A-X when it comes to Myles Garrett

Myles Garrett has done an outstanding job at defensive end his rookie season. He gets pressure on the quarterback, he sets an edge in the run game and creates havoc for an offense.

Myles Garrett is a player that opposing teams have to game plan for. The Browns have not had a player that offenses must account for in years. Taking up double teams has freed up other defensive linemen, namely Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley, to make plays. His play is opening opportunities for others on the defense.

But because Garrett is not making the flashy plays, fans seem to think he is a bust. This type of talk is lunacy. Football is a team game, he effects opposing offenses in ways not seen on stat sheets. Garrett may not be making plays that fans see, but he is making plays that coaches and opponents see. Myles Garrett is a “real” player.

Defensive End Carl Nassib is stepping up his game

With Garrett effectively turning offenses into right-handed running teams, the onus has been on the left defensive end set the edge in the running game. Carl Nassib has stepped up his play to meet the challenge.

The question around Nassib as an NFL lineman has been his size. He is plenty tall enough, but does he have the weight to stop the run? Nassib’s play the past couple weeks is putting those questions to bed.

Nassib’s style of play fits defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ attacking gap scheme. Nassib can use his quickness and good initial move off the ball to win his gap and set an edge. Setting the edge has been key to the Browns’ ability to stop the run this season. His improvement from year one to year two should not be overlooked.

He has also improved in the pass game. With offenses focusing on Garrett, Nassib has seen more single blocks. He has improved his pass rush techniques from last year and is making an impact as was evident with the pressure he was causing against the Ravens.

Browns stopped the embarrassing plays

It is difficult for fans to watch the Browns play the Ravens. The difficultly comes from watching the Ravens play a style of game that shows the Browns little respect. The Ravens treat the Browns as second-class citizens and seem to toy with them on the field.

It was nice to see the Ravens’ hubris work against them on Sunday. The Ravens tried a trick play throw back to an eligible offensive tackle. Should the play have worked, it certainly been yet another in a series of embarrassing “that’s so Browns” moments. But instead of being embarrassed by a trick play, the Browns actually had it covered.

Related Post: 3 takeaways as the Browns fall to 0-14

The Ravens tried another potentially “that’s so Browns” type play by calling a quarterback keeper down by the goal line. The result of the play was several vicious hits on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

It may not seem like much, but the Browns earned some respect today on the field. They went from being a complete laughingstock team to mistreat any way one feels, to simply a bad football team that is progressing.

The fact that the Ravens’ hubris took a blow is a step in the right direction.

Next: Talking doom and 0-14 in the DPD Podcast

The day when Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has a meltdown after losing to the Browns are approaching. I am looking forward to it.