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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2016: DL Preview, Part 1

Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

It's time to move in to the trenches for our 2016 Cleveland Browns training camp preview. We'll be looking at the defensive line position in a three-part series. In part 1 today, we will cover Desmond Bryant, Danny Shelton, John Hughes, and Carl Nassib. Part 2 will look at Jamie Meder, Xavier Cooper, and Niles Lawrence-Stample. Lastly, part 3 will go through Kyle Rose, Cam Johnson, and Dylan Wynn.


8276_mediumDesmond Bryant (#92)

6-6 | Weight: 310
Age: 30 | Experience: 8 years
College: Harvard

Note: Most veteran defensive lineman on the team ... Has played with Hue Jackson and Ray Horton before ... Led team with 6 sacks in 2015.

Very few veterans seemed to survive the Browns' roster purge this offseason, but Desmond Bryant is one of the guy's who is still here. Part of that might have to do with the fact that Hue Jackson was his head coach back in 2011, and Ray Horton was hear in 2013 for Bryant's first year in Cleveland.

Another reason Bryant is still here is that he is just a solid all-around player. All of his teammates on the defensive line are very young, so for the first time in his career, Bryant can feel like this is his opportunity and responsibility to be more vocal with his peers en route to becoming a leader. He is the only player on the line who is older than 27 at 30 years old.

Bryant had a shoulder injury at the beginning of last season, but only missed two games and ended up finishing with a team- and career-high six sacks. He will no doubt hold one of the team's starting defensive end positions in camp and throughout the season. Bryant has two years left on his contract and should play them both out.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


8276_mediumDanny Shelton (#71)

6-2 | Weight: 339
Age: 22 | Experience: 2 years
College: Washington

Note: Drew mixed feelings from fans with re: how well he performed as a rookie ... Commands double teams ... Dropped 30 pounds this offseason.

I am in the crowd who was pleased with Danny Shelton's performance as a rookie. Because of how dominant he looked in training camp and during the preseason, I think I elevated my expectations a little too high for him to look like an immediate Pro Bowler.

Teams were able to contain him at the start of the season, and he had an annoying habit of jumping on piles late. Things slowly came together for him as the season went on, and I'm optimistic about where he can elevate his game as a sophomore.

The team's roster page lists Shelton at 339 pounds. During minicamp last month, Shelton said that he was 365 pounds at the end of the 2015 season and worked toward shedding 30 pounds and getting down to 335. When the team first re-hired Ray Horton, he said, "One of the things I want for Danny is that I don't want for him to always have to come off the field. I want him to stay on the field as much as we want him on the field."

Shelton's ability to be an every-down player was part of what made him such an intriguing draft prospect for a nose tackle. In college, not only was he dominant, but he played a high percentage of his team's snaps. In his first year with the NFL, there were too many games where he wouldn't be a two-down or three-down player -- whether that was coaching- or conditioning-related, it should have been sorted out.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


8276_mediumJohn Hughes (#93)

6-2 | Weight: 320
Age: 27 | Experience: 5 years
College: Cincinnati

Note: Always known as a good rotational run stopper ... Due to depth chart, might finally have the opportunity to win a starting job.

John Hughes has been known as a rotational run-stopper since entering the NFL in 2012. In Cleveland, he's been able to make a living off of that role, and his current contract is quite cheap by NFL standards considering it runs all the way through the 2019 season. His cap hit in each of the next four years is about $3 million a year.

Even though Hughes' affordable contract makes his roster spot very secure, you also have to wonder when or if he should ever receive the opportunity to be a starter. He seems to be at his best as a rotational player, but with Randy Starks (thankfully) no longer with the club, the team's defensive end position opposite Desmond Bryant is open between the likes of Hughes, Carl Nassib, and Xavier Cooper. Hughes has the most experience and should be favored to start.

In my opinion, Hughes coming off of the most underwhelming season of his career. Putting things into perspective, though, the Browns' defense under Jim O'Neil was just atrocious from all angles, and even your usual standout players seemed to fall off the map. Hopefully Hughes can find his strength again with a familiar coach (Ray Famrer), but the big question that remains is whether he'll ever evolve into having starter-level reps.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


8276_mediumCarl Nassib (#94)

6-6 | Weight: 273
Age: 23 | Experience: Rookie
College: Penn State

Note: Tall frame at 6-7 or 6-6, but team expects him to add weight ... High motor and led CFB in sacks last year ... Will move inside in 4-man fronts.

Pro Football Focus labeled Carl Nassib, one of the team's third-round picks, as one of the best edge defenders in college football last season, finishing the year with 15.5 sacks and forcing 6 fumbles.

Nassib has a relentless motor, to the point where Sashi Brown likened it to what Joey Bosa could bring to the table. Cleveland would like him to add about 15 more pounds and continue to build upon his strength. He's expected to contribute as a defensive end in base sets, and then when Cleveland goes to a four-man front, he'll move to the inside where he could create a mismatch in rushing the passer. His tall frame (many have called him 6-7, but the roster page said 6-6) will make it tough for quarterbacks to throw over him if he gets a good rush up the middle.

Even though Xavier Cooper is in his second year, I think he'll get caught up in the regime change and that Nassib will slide ahead of him on the depth chart. I think he'll be working on too many things in training camp to expect him to start right away, but I'd also be shocked if he were inactive for so many games like Cooper was in 2015.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

Even though we didn't cover Xavier Cooper today, today's poll includes him in the question of who you think will start at defensive end opposite of Bryant.