Our training camp previews for the defensive line continue on as the 4th of July weekend is upon us. We looked at some of the defensive line starters in part 1 of our preview on the position. Part 2 will look at Jamie Meder, Xavier Cooper, and Nile Lawrence-Stample, with the rest of the linemen to follow in part 3 tomorrow.
5. JAMIE MEDER - BACKUP DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
Meder made the 53-man roster last season because of his dominance in the preseason against backups. PFF had given him the best grade on the team during last year's preseason by a significant margin, and that productivity carried over to the regular season. Although neither player graded spectacularly well during the regular season, PFF gave Meder the edge in performance over Danny Shelton as an interior defender. Meder can serve as a backup nose tackle, but he should also be a bit of a dark horse contender to start at defensive end.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
6. XAVIER COOPER - BACKUP PASS-RUSHING LINEMAN
Besides Cameron Erving, the draft pick who was most disappointing for the Browns in 2015 was Xavier Cooper. The 3rd-round pick was billed an explosive pass-rushing specialist, but was used sparingly by the coaching staff. He finished the year with 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks, often struggling to hold his own. When PFF ranked 124 interior defenders in 2015, Cooper was ranked dead last.
There is hope that Robert Nunn, the team's defensive line coach who came over from the New York Giants, can help improve the techniques these youngsters have, but I think this is going to be a very important camp for Cooper. Desmond Bryant, Danny Shelton, and John Hughes already have fairly-established roster spots, and Carl Nassib will have a spot locked down too. If Jamie Meder makes the team, then what if someone like Nile Lawrence-Stample has a great camp as a rookie while Cooper continues to struggle? Does he become a regime-change cut, despite his draft status?
Ultimately, I think Cooper's roster spot will be safe. He'll be another rotational player who can, along with Nassib, rush the passer from the inside in four-man fronts. Coming out of college, he was praised for his "first-step explosiveness and his violent and technically savvy hand usage." Maybe Joe Kim, the team's strength and conditioning/skills development coach with the hand-fighting/MMA background, can help leverage those skills better at the NFL level.
Final Roster Odds: 85%
7. NILE LAWRENCE-STAMPLE - UNDRAFTED ROOKIE RUN-STOPPING SPECIALIST
Lawrence-Stample will likely be an early-down run-stopper to start his NFL career, and that makes him a good fit for the Browns. He made most of his 456 snaps last season, earning the 12th-best run-defense grade among DTs in the class. His pass-rushing was solid, as well, with three sacks, a hit, and 10 QB hurries to his name in 2015.
He could also challenge Jamie Meder to be Danny Shelton's backup at nose tackle for his ability to take up double teams. While Carl Nassib and Xavier Cooper have their strengths as pass-rushers, though, it might not be a bad idea to complement them with two run-stopping specialists in John Hughes and Lawrence-Stample. I figure he will make the club in some capacity, either on the back-end of the 53-man roster or on the practice squad.
Final Roster Odds: 60%
Today's poll asks if you had to cut one of these players, who would it be?