Cleveland Browns defensive line showing off what it lacked in 2018

CLEVELAND, OHIO - AUGUST 08: Defensive end Chris Smith #50 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates during the first half of a preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 08, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - AUGUST 08: Defensive end Chris Smith #50 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates during the first half of a preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 08, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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The entire Cleveland Browns front seven struggled in 2018, but the defensive line is already showing glimpses of what it needs to improve in 2019.

The Cleveland Browns defensive line have been a dominant unit since the start of the preseason. They have made it difficult for opponents to put together much offense, no matter who is in the game.

Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said during the offseason he believed the defensive line was the strength of the entire team. But after their struggles as a unit in 2018, some believed his statements could have been part coach speak.

The Browns did build a starting defensive line that could end up being one of the best defensive lines in the league. Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon have already shown that it will be incredibly difficult for offensive tackles to keep both in check throughout the course of a game. Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson are also doing their jobs in the interior, taking on blocks and stalemating the line of scrimmage.

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But where the questions started with the Browns defensive line was would their depth keep the starters fresh for all four quarters, while also making plays themselves when they are on the field. That was the same question last season, and the answer was typically an emphatic no.

However, during the first three preseason games of 2019, the Browns second- and third-team defensive lines have been disruptive as well. And there have been several players making plays, not just a few.

On the inside, defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence has been unstoppable and created plenty of issues for opposing offensive linemen. He has registered six total tackles and three sacks. He has shown a great first step off the snap, helping him crash the pocket and get to the quarterback.

Lawrence has not been the only interior linemen generating pressure, as Trevon Coley has played surprisingly well in the preseason. Coley has made four total tackles, but has generated four pressures, including three quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Browns are also receiving production from the edge with Anthony Zettel, Chris Smith, and Chad Thomas. Although they have not registered a sack, they have 10 total pressures during the preseason. They may not have fared as well against the run, but their pressure on the quarterback is what the Browns need off the edge.

The preseason is an extremely small sample size and the defensive line is not going up against the first-team offensive lines for the entirety of games. But they are showing an ability to get upfield in Steve Wilks’ aggressive defense and create havoc in the backfield.

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If the Browns defensive line continues their strong play in 2019, the entire defense could see a massive improvement. The defensive line has smothered rushing attacks, as well as getting in the backfield and rushing the quarterback. With the upgrades at defensive line, they are showing the potential of being a top unit in 2019.

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