Olivier Vernon was the least talked about addition in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, but he could play a huge role in the Cleveland Browns defense.
When the Cleveland Browns made their deal with the New York Giants in March, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was the obvious centerpiece of the deal. But the Browns also acquired a Oliver Vernon, who also will be a starter for Cleveland in 2019.
Understandably, Beckham gets the most attention from the deal. However, Vernon has an opportunity to make a big impact for the Browns, but on the defensive side of the ball.
Vernon has been a productive player for most of his career, and that did not change last season. In 11 games for the Giants, Vernon made 30 total tackles, five tackles for loss, seven sacks, one forced fumble, and 21 quarterback hits.
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During his three seasons with the Giants, Vernon received criticism for not being a top-tier pass rusher statistically. However, he was a force as a pass rusher for the Giants with 172 pressures over the three seasons, including 88 pressures in 2016. And it was going to be hard for him to play to the level of his five-year, $85 million deal.
Adding that type of presence to Cleveland’s defensive line will create one of the best pass rushing tandems in the NFL by pairing Vernon with Myles Garrett. The duo had a combined 113 pressures last season.
Garrett managed to create his pressures while being double-teamed for almost the entire season. Without another pass rusher that intimidated opponents, it was an easy decision for offenses to game-plan double teams against Garrett. But with Vernon on the opposite edge of Garrett, it will not be that easy for offenses to double team Garrett.
Vernon has proven to be incredibly difficult to block, it just has not resulted in crazy sack numbers. However, he is regularly in the backfield making it difficult for quarterbacks. But if he had the opportunity to play on a talent filled defense, he could start to generate the high number of sacks.
But if the decision is made to continue to double Garrett, it will provide Vernon plenty of one-on-one blocking opportunities to take advantage of. Vernon has proven to be one of the toughest edge rushers to block, but he has not been able to turn all of the pressures into double-digit sacks since 2013.
But because of the talent on Cleveland’s defensive front, Vernon will have plenty of chances to make plays in the backfield. The Browns also boast a talented secondary that will force quarterbacks to hold the ball long enough to allow the pressure to crash the pocket. And with the amount of pressure Vernon generates, he should be able to get home and get to the quarterback at a frequent rate.
The pairing of Vernon and Garrett will create a pick your poison challenge for offenses. And if they decide to choose to double Garrett more frequently, Vernon can make life as miserable for offenses, and could be able to have the best statistical season of his career.
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