The Cleveland Browns wanted to help take some of the pass rushing load off Myles Garrett, and they may have created a top edge tandem in the process.
Last offseason, the Cleveland Browns prioritized building a strong secondary to give their defensive front extra time to get to the quarterback.
But after not getting to the quarterback as much as they would have preferred last season, as well as struggling to stop the run, the Browns shifted their focus to building up the defensive line this offseason.
The front office showed how important it was to add to the defensive line when they traded Kevin Zeitler, one of the league’s best guards, to the New York Giants for defensive end Olivier Vernon. They also signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a three-year, $37 million deal at the start of free agency.
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But it was the addition of Vernon that may bet the move that takes the Browns defense to the next level. Vernon gives the Browns another threat off the edge to pair with Myles Garrett, who emerged as one of the best edge players in the NFL last season.
The pairing could also be one of the most intimidating in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). PFF ranked the tandem of Garrett and Vernon as the third best edge tandem in the NFL, behind only J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney and Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III.
Last season, both players finished in the top-ten of PFF’s pass rush grade among edge defenders, with Garrett finishing sixth and Vernon seventh. With both being strong pass rushers, it will force offenses to gameplan how to limit the pressure off the edge as much as possible.
It was believed Emmanuel Ogbah starting opposite of Garrett would create that type of pairing last season. But as Ogbah dealt with injuries, he was not able to get to the quarterback as often as the team would have hoped.
However, Vernon has proved over the course of his career that he can be a good pass rusher no matter who he was playing across from. In 11 games last season, Vernon made seven sacks and 21 quarterback hits.
Adding that to Garrett’s 13.5 sacks and 29 quarterback hits shows how much of a difference the duo will be able to make. With Garrett and Vernon playing on the same front in 2019, there is reason to believe both players may have even more success than last season.
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