5 reasons the Browns defense underperforms expectations

Browns, Myles Garrett. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Browns, Myles Garrett. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /
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Browns, Tommy Togiai
Browns, Tommy Togiai. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports /

4. Andrew Berry failed to address defensive tackle

Andrew Berry did not place a high enough value on the defensive tackle position in the offseason. Instead, he assumed that third-year player Jordan Elliott and second-year man Tommy Togiai were going to make impressive strides in replacing two fellows named Malik: McDowell and Jackson.

The Maliks played at a very high level early in 2021. In particular, McDowell seemed to be a success story after overcoming off-the-field issues that prevented him from reaching the field after being drafted in the second round by the Seattle Seahawks in 2017. However, he and Jackson, a nine-year veteran nearing the end of his career, both tapered off as the season went on. Jackson has not made it back to the NFL and is probably retired, and McDowell ultimately suffered a relapse in the offseason.

Berry did sign Taven Bryan, who was a rotational defensive tackle for Jacksonville. At a relatively light 291 pounds, but with 25 quarterback hits for Jacksonville, it was rather clear that he was going to be an asset for passing downs, but he has never been a massive run-stopper.

Neither Elliott at 303 pounds nor Togiai at 296 pounds have bodies that would make anyone think they are massive run-stoppers, either. Therefore it should not come as a surprise that none of them grade among the top 100 overall interior defenders according to Pro Football Focus.

They’re especially weak against the run. One of the Browns’ trademark habits is to almost always seek players who are better at rushing the passer than stopping the run. Rarely do they obtain the services of someone like Danny Shelton, a big man who can stop the run, and even then they were probably faked out by his college stats for getting sacks. Hence, every week their opponents run up the middle, and every week they gain yards.

Perrion Winfrey (290 pounds) was drafted in the fourth round and has looked good in limited snaps. However, he has raised the ire of the coaching staff and has been a healthy scratch due to unspecified disciplinary reasons. He also injured himself running into a pole while riding a scooter.

Was he perhaps influenced by the example of Myles Garrett?

At any rate, it is probably best to consider Winfrey to be a developmental player, hold your nose and keep him on the roster in hopes he matures. However, he is probably not going to stop the run, either. He and Bryan grade out as 3-4 defensive ends, rather than 4-3 defensive tackles.

Finding a big man who can stop the run on first down is not that difficult. We’re not asking for an All-Pro at the position, just someone to play on running downs and not be among the worst in the NFL. Somewhere on someone’s practice squad is a 320-pound kid who can do that. The job of Berry and the front office is to find that dude and poach him for the Browns.

Berry’s next painful task would be to waive one of the current defensive tackles and probably assign him to the Browns’ practice squad. There is little need to worry about another team claiming that player on waivers because the current tackles are just not that good.