1. DL Malik McDowell
Defensive line depth might be Cleveland’s biggest weakness right now, and the line’s performance through two preseason games has not been encouraging. The group struggles to create pressure and doesn’t provide a ton of resistance against the run.
However, Malik McDowell is different. He made his NFL debut against New York, and played really well, showing off his power and explosiveness against the run and collecting a sack. To be fair, McDowell was an elite prospect entering the league, and he was playing against a bunch of second, third, and fourth-string linemen, but he also hadn’t played a football game since early November of 2016.
Given his off-field history and lack of experience, it’s difficult to call McDowell anything but a longshot to make the roster, but he was clearly the team’s best defender against New York. That means something, and if he can have a similar impact against Atlanta, the Browns may not have a choice but to keep him, even though the defensive tackle room is extremely crowded as is.
Andrew Berry’s specialty is finding talent in unlikely places. That would certainly be an apt description for McDowell if he can make the team.