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Browns Pass Rush: Edge Rusher Or Defensive Tackle?

In this installment in the series, I look at a wrinkle the Browns showed at the end of the Raiders game: three of their outside linebackers/defensive ends on the field together.

Hoyer congratulates Kruger
Hoyer congratulates Kruger
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Starting with 1:27 left in the fourth quarter, with Cleveland ahead 23 to 6 over Oakland, the Browns brought in an extra edge rusher to play defensive tackle. They knew that the Raiders couldn't  afford to run the ball, so they could get away with this sub defensive front. Below, we see Jabaal Sheard and Eric Martin at the defensive end and outside linebacker positions with Desmond Bryant at defensive tackle. Paul Kruger is also on the field, lined up at the other defensive tackle spot:

KrugerUT_Sack - Copy

And here we can see another example, this time from the endzone angle:

OLBatDT_OAK4Q0-15_1 - Copy

Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo are lined up at the defensive end and outside linebacker positions with Desmond Bryant and Jabaal Sheard at defensive tackle. The protection for this play assigned a double team to Sheard and had the running back chip Mingo on the way into his route. This left Bryant and Kruger with 1-on-1 matchups:


On the next play, Mingo and Sheard switch spots, with Mingo lined up inside but standing up over the right guard. Carr gets the ball out very quickly on this play, to his first read.


Here Sheard slants inside from his tackle spot while Mingo loops in behind Bryant on a stunt. Kruger is once again isolated on the right tackle and Carr checks the ball down:


This time Eric Martin is in at the right outside linebacker spot. The left guard helps the center on Bryant and then leaves to help the left tackle, who has his hands full on an island with Martin. The right tackle and guard handle Kruger and Sheard, with the running back providing some assistance.


Next, there's another lineup change: Paul Kruger moves inside to left defensive tackle with Bryant at nose tackle, Sheard at end, and Martin at outside linebacker. The first play from this lineup is a sack:


Right after the sack, Kruger sees a double team. Sheard beats the right tackle but the left guard, tracking down a stunting Eric Martin, blocks his path to the quarterback:


Martin and Bryant come on a game, this time with Martin as the lead man and Bryant crossing behind him, coming free, bearing down on Carr, and forcing an incompletion:


As you can see from the above examples, the purpose of this defensive lineup is to present legitimate pass rushing threats from each of the four defensive line positions. Everyone in this group has the range and quickness to get home if they come free on their rush and the offense has to leave at least one or two of them single-blocked. The goal is to force the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly -- hopefully to an underneath receiver for a minimal gain -- or to punish him with pressure if he tries to hold on to the ball longer.

Essentially, moving an edge guy inside is an attempt to make up for the loss of Armonty Bryant. This package showed some promise with either Jabaal Sheard or Paul Kruger as the second tackle. Going forward, I anticipate them getting more opportunities at defensive tackle in obvious passing situations due to these performances at the end of the Raiders game.