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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2015: DL Preview, Part 1

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Our next set of training camp previews for the Cleveland Browns will focus on the defensive line position. Today, we will take a look at four of the twelve defensive linemen who are in camp, and the most likely to compete for starting roles or significant reps in 2015.


8276_mediumDesmond Bryant (#92)

6-6 | Weight: 310
Age: 29 | Experience: 7 years
College: Harvard

Note: Was a workhorse on the DL in 2014. ... Consistent play has been shielded by lackluster play around him.

Fortunately, Desmond Bryant's heart issues that forced him to miss time in 2013 are no longer an issue. Bryant only missed the season-opener in 2014 because he was still recovering from wrist surgery. He played in the final 15 games, registering a career-high 50 tackles and tying a career high with 5 sacks.

Bryant's starting role is not in jeopardy. He was the only defensive lineman who regularly played between 75-80% of the snaps each week in 2014, a number Cleveland would probably like to shave down a bit if the rest of their linemen can stay healthy this year.

The Browns were the most efficient team at not missing tackles last year according to Pro Football Focus, and Bryant was a significant reason why. Bryant only missed one tackle all season despite playing over 700 snaps. He has been a consistent player and a workhorse for the Browns, but because of how depleted the line has been around him, he hasn't quite been able to break out as a dominant player. If the nose tackle position sorts itself out this year and the team can get a solid rotation going on the other side, Bryant's play will start to stand out more.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


8276_mediumDanny Shelton (#71)

6-2 | Weight: 339
Age: 21 | Experience: Rookie
College: Washington

Note: No. 12 overall pick by Browns in 2015. ... Has the ability to play a lot of snaps without coming out.

The Browns selected Danny Shelton with the No. 12 overall pick of the 2015 draft. He was the top remaining player on our DBN Big Boards at the time (cumulatively ranked #6 overall) and a welcome sight considering the team's 32nd ranked run defense in 2014.

Prior to the draft, Cleveland did not address the nose tackle position in free agency. The belief going around the NFL is that teams did not want to pay top-dollar to nose tackles who couldn't stay on the field for very many snaps. Shelton was an every-down type of nose tackle in college, displaying great quickness and power. Per Dane Bruglar of CBS Sports, Shelton "has the range to make plays on the perimeter and the unyielding hustle to continue pursuit through the whistle" and "requires double-teams due to his nimble feet and upper body strength to shock blockers."

At the NFL level, Shelton won't be an every-down player because it's not practical to expect that out of the nose tackle position. I think he will see significant snaps as the primary nose tackle, though, with Phil Taylor coming in as the backup. Shelton missed OTAs because he was finishing up his college degree, but when he returned for minicamp, the coaches threw all they could possibly throw at him. They want him ready for Week 1.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


8276_mediumPhil Taylor (#98)

6-3 | Weight: 335
Age: 27 | Experience: 5 years
College: Baylor

Note: Recovering from knee surgery. ... Expected to be ready for camp. ... Switching to NT this year.

Entering the final year of his contract, the Browns had to make a decision this offseason on whether to retain Phil Taylor and guarantee his contract for 2015, or cut ties with him. They kept him on the roster, and with his $5 million salary now fully guaranteed, he will at least remain with the club this year.

I think this will be Taylor's final year with the club, but he is going to be motivated to have an impactful season so he can prove to other clubs that his knee injuries aren't holding him back. Cleveland only got one glimpse into Taylor's full potential in 2014, and that is when he played a significant role in controlling the line of scrimmage against the Cincinnati Bengals in the team's 24-3 win on Thursday Night Football.

Taylor mostly played at the 3-technique last season with Ahtyba Rubin at nose tackle. Prior to the draft, head coach Mike Pettine said that Taylor would be the starting nose tackle this year with Ishmaa'ily Kitchen backing him up. All signs indicate that Taylor will still be competing at nose tackle. If Shelton is slow to catch on in training camp, Taylor could remain the starter for awhile over him. I think the team will prefer to take it easy with Taylor, though, so they can at least get some mileage out of him when the regular season starts.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


8276_mediumJohn Hughes (#93)

6-2 | Weight: 320
Age: 26 | Experience: 4 years
College: Cincinnati

Note: Injured for the majority of 2014. ... Excellent reputation as a run defender. ... Received contract extension in 2014.

Last offseason, the Browns signed John Hughes to a four-year contract extension. After being banged up to start the year, Hughes was inserted into the starting lineup from Week 7-8 before suffering a knee injury. Cleveland placed him on the short-term IR list and did actually activate him to play in the team's Week 17 finale.

Opposite Bryant, we're unlikely to see one single player dominate the number of snaps at defensive end -- we'll see a combination of Hughes, Billy Winn, Randy Starks, and Xavier Cooper.

Hughes is an excellent rotational run defender, so I'd like to see him either on some of the early downs or 3rd-and-short situations. Of the 12 defensive linemen the Browns have in camp, I included Hughes in the first group because his job is the most secure due to his contract extension.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

Tomorrow, we will continue covering the Browns' defensive linemen. Feel free to discuss your thoughts on the defensive line below. Our poll asks what type of playing time split you'd like to see the Browns use at nose tackle.