The Cleveland Browns have a core group of young players helping fuel their turnaround, but one NFL writer thinks Genard Avery is the key player.
If the Cleveland Browns are able to live up to their expectations for the 2019 season, the team’s 2018 NFL Draft class will play a major role in helping the team do so.
In his first draft as the Cleveland Browns’ general manager, John Dorsey capitalized on having top draft assets, including four selections in the first 35 selections.
That draft landed the Browns their franchise quarterback, Baker Mayfield, who has become the catalyst in the transformation of Cleveland’s success. Cleveland also added Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb early in the draft, and both have helped change the culture in Cleveland.
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But it was not just the success of the early part of that draft class that formed the core group for the Browns. Dorsey also added starting talent in the middle of the draft, most notably in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Cleveland landed wide receiver Antonio Callaway in the fourth round and linebacker Genard Avery in the fifth round. Both played significant roles in 2018 and are expected to have increased roles in their sophomore seasons.
But of their 2018 draft class, Avery is one player who is drawing attention nationally. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com picked one key homegrown player from each AFC team for the 2019 season, and felt Avery was the Cleveland Brown to focus on.
"“Avery was the hidden gem of a preposterously good Browns draft class, which was headlined by Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb. Avery’s 42 pressures and sure tackling were both outrageous for a fifth-round pick in a part-time role. Now he’s expected to replace Jamie Collins, released in March, as the team’s strong-side linebacker on early downs while also getting work as a defensive end. His versatility is exactly what creative coordinators should be looking for.” – Rosenthal, NFL.com"
Although Avery was not playing as a full-time starter for the entire season, he made his presence felt when he was on the field. Playing off the edge, Avery was constantly causing disruption in the backfield and making life miserable for quarterbacks.
In 16 games, including five starts, Avery made 40 total tackles, five tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and 14 quarterback hits.
As Rosenthal noted, Avery is expected to become the starting strong side linebacker for the Browns in 2019 after the team released Jamie Collins. However, because of the expectation the Browns will rarely play in their base defense next season, Avery may see most of his time coming off the edge as a defensive end.
During the first week of OTA’s, Doug Lesmerises of cleveland.com pointed out that Avery spent most of his time working with the defensive end group instead of with the linebackers. Although his five starts last season were at linebacker, it was when he played on the line of scrimmage when Avery made the most of his impact.
With the Browns defense building up their defensive front, they could become one of the most ferocious pass rushing units in the NFL. Avery will have a major role in that, but he will be important for the defense because of his versatility and the time he will also spend at linebacker.