The Cleveland Browns defensive line is likely their key defensive strength
Heading into the 2020 season, the Cleveland Browns defensive line looks to be a formidable unit. The starting front four is headlined by Myles Garrett, who was rightfully extended last week, of which DPD’s Nick Pedone hit on the official reported details.
From there, the likely two on the interior in Sheldon Richardson and likely Larry Ogunjobi are solid, and if he can be mostly healthy, Olivier Vernon opposite Garrett could have a resurgent 2020. Vernon’s knee and ankle injuries the past two seasons with Cleveland and in 2018 with the New York Giants did hamper him, but when he was healthy, he did make his presence felt.
While the linebacking corps featuring the likes of Mack Wilson, B.J. Goodson, Sione Takitaki, and Jacob Phillips is so young and a major question mark, Cleveland’s defensive line should do their part on most occasions — one would think. Granted, Phillips is a promising player and could end up as a linchpin often as one of the two in Cleveland’s nickel package for defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
Meanwhile, in the secondary, Denzel Ward, multi-faceted rookie Grant Delpit, Karl Joseph, veteran Andrew Sendejo and company would seem to be a much more reliable unit than the backers, but the defensive line is the key strength for Cleveland’s defense it appears.
In that regard, Pro Football Focus’ rank for the Cleveland Browns defensive line demonstrated that
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus ranked the Browns defensive line as the 12th-best in the NFL in a piece published a few days ago. Overall, that seems reasonable, and Monson would first stress how Garrett is one of the game’s best pass rushers.
Considering Garrett has 30.5 sacks in 35 career starts, and has 77 pressures the past two seasons, even with his unfortunate abrupt ending via suspension last season and missing six games, that’s no secret. Garrett holds up in the run game really well, too.
In addition, Ogunjobi and Richardson, while not stars, are capable interior run defenders, by and large. Ogunjobi has had 5.5 sacks each of the past two seasons, and a combined 45 pressures to boot.
However, while both Ogunjobi and Richardson did seemingly get worn down as last season progressed, and more sans Garrett, and that hurt their run game performance/interior rushing to a degree, they should have more rushing juice with Andrew Billings in the fold alongside one or the other. The former Cincinnati Bengal, of whom Monson did note could be in play more so over Ogunjobi on “base downs,” either way should help Cleveland’s rush defense.
From there, Monson mentioned how Cleveland Browns rookie Jordan Elliott could be a contributor as a pass rusher, which would be especially encouraging to see. Here was a bit more on that from Monson on Elliot.
"“Elliot had the highest PFF pass-rushing grade of any interior defender in the SEC last season, ahead of first-round talents such as Javon Kinlaw and Derrick Brown. He was a first-round talent according to PFF’s Big Board and could be an impact player for Cleveland if he can maintain that level of play.”"
Lastly, Monson acknowledged how Adrian Clayborn “provides a really useful rotational body who has averaged over 50 total pressures for the past three seasons.”
Needless to say, the takeaway from Monson’s piece is that the defensive line projects as the clear key strength for the Cleveland Browns defense heading into the 2020 campaign.
That unit will be heavily relied on to produce in a big way for the Brown and Orange to help out a youthful linebacking corps and Cleveland’s secondary. An important thing to note here is of course if proper protocols can be ironed out in relation to management of the novel coronavirus pandemic by the league.