Cleveland Browns have two Top 20 EDGE players in Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 14: Jadeveon Clowney #99 of the Tennessee Titans warms up before a game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on September 14, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 14: Jadeveon Clowney #99 of the Tennessee Titans warms up before a game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on September 14, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns look to have a big-time EDGE tandem 

Nobody would say that the Cleveland Browns had a top-quality defense in 2020. But with both the 2021 NFL Draft and with free agency in mind, in particular, the unit looks to have had a facelift.

Draft selections of Greg Newsome II, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Tommy Togiai could all contribute, the former two in a notable way game-to-game, even as rookies, and Cleveland killed it in free agency. Signings of John Johnson III and Troy Hill from the Los Angeles Rams were crucial signings, and veteran add Malik Jackson, when healthy, is still a stout run defender and can push the pocket.

From there, it was still a big plus that the Browns ended up adding the likes of EDGE Jadeveon Clowney later on in free agency, too. Clowney underwhelmed for the Tennessee Titans in 2020, and ended up only having been active in eight games, largely because of a meniscus tear that ultimately sidelined him from Week 11 on.

Clowney only had six quarterback hits and had no sacks in those eight games anyhow; it was anything but a memorable season for him.

The former No. 1 overall pick has also dealt with injuries in a number of other seasons, and in the year prior with the Seattle Seahawks, a hip injury was somewhat nagging for him it appeared. In that campaign, he was a meaningful run defender when healthy and his pass-rushing presence wasn’t to be discounted for others, albeit he was limited to 13 games played.

Clowney has only played one full, 16-game season, whichever way you slice it.

That said, if he can be healthy for Cleveland, the South Carolina product in Clowney should aid the likes of superstar Myles Garrett with his presence opposite Garrett, along with other players hopefully on the interior. The same goes for the second level on run plays.

And for what it’s worth, Clowney still has been a productive run defender, and has, when healthy, been a capable EDGE rusher. He did make three straight Pro Bowls from 2016-2018 with the Houston Texans.

The potential impact Clowney could have was recently shown, to go with Garrett of course, in a recent piece by Pro Football Focus’ Ben Linsey in which he named his top 32 EDGE defenders currently in the NFL.

Clowney-Garrett could be a great tandem for the Browns.

For the rationale for Clowney first, who came in at no. 20, here’s what Linsey stated.

"“Clowney’s stock across the league is seemingly at a low point as he comes off two injury-limited seasons with Seattle and Tennessee. It’s worth remembering that Clowney is still one of the most disruptive edge defenders in the league when healthy, though.He has been a 95th-percentile run defender at the position since 2014 and put up pass-rushing grades of 75.0 or higher for the first time in his career in each of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The key for Cleveland will be keeping him healthy on what appears to be a much-improved defense following this offseason.” – Linsey, PFF"

This from Linsey shows that, if he’s out there, Clowney could very well be a big-time contributor for the Browns in 2021.

His abilities could help free up second-level players, and further aid the Orange and Brown in utilizing more sub-packages/exotic looks also factoring in Grant Delpit and Ronnie Harrison, for example as hybrid linebackers. And Clowney, while the sack splits don’t necessarily pop to some, still had 30 quarterback pressures in 2019, to go with 9.0 sacks and 48 QB pressures in 2018.

We’ll have to see in regards to Clowney with the Browns, but there is plenty of capability there. That’s even more so with Garrett, who has been a game-breaker for Cleveland, as DPD’s Mitch Zoloty detailed, on the other side.

From there, here was what Linsey said from the Garrett end of things, with him having the Texas A & M product at No. 4 among EDGE players.

"“Garrett finds himself at the top of almost every significant pass-rush grade category since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick back in 2017. He ranks in the 98th percentile in pass-rushing grade, pass-rush grade on true pass sets and pass-rush grade without play action. Garrett is one of the position’s best athletes and can win his individual matchups in various ways. He will enter the 2021 season with another former No. 1 overall pick across from him on the defensive line in Cleveland, as well.” – Linsey, PFF"

Garrett, particularly before he was affected by COVID-19, was his usual game-wrecking self for Cleveland last season. For reference, Garrett does have to manage asthma, too.

In a general sense though, on the season, he had 12.0 sacks, 18 QB hits, 48 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 32 QB pressures in 14 games active.

Moreover, as Linsey’s piece emphasized, if Clowney can be mostly healthy for the Browns, him and Garrett, to go with the other free agent/draft acquisitions, could very well lead to Cleveland having a much, much-improved defense in 2021.

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And frankly, even if Clowney doesn’t have the splashy sack totals, if he’s mostly out there and healthy, he should be very impactful and open up Garrett/others a bit, one would think.