The Cleveland Browns have 15 defensive linemen on their roster, so we’re going to break our training camp preview up into three parts. In Part 1, we’ll look at the team’s top five defensive linemen. In Part 2, we’ll look at some backup interior defenders. In Part 3, we’ll look at the backup defensive ends.
1. Danny Shelton - Starting Nose/Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 335 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 3 years | College: Washington
The Browns’ defensive scheme is changing under Gregg Williams, and this will be Shelton’s third defensive coordinator in as many years. After a mediocre rookie season, Shelton responded with a very respectable sophomore season. Last year, Shelton had the 5th most stops (42) among nose tackles since 2013, according to Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus. Stops were defined as both pass- and run-stops, but most nose tackles, Shelton included, primarily get the run stops.
Shelton was good enough to make PFF’s Midseason All-Pro team in 2016. In February 2017, word broke that Shelton had minor wrist surgery. Upon hearing about that, if you go back to last year’s injury reports, you’ll see Shelton started being listed on them with a wrist injury heading into Week 11. John Kosko of PFF took the time to compare Shelton’s production before and after the injury; although both sets of data were respectable, it seems apparent that the injury did bother him a little.
@NathanZegura Danny Shelton injured wrist prior to 1st PIT game.— John Kosko (@PFF_JohnKosko) February 23, 2017
Weeks 1-10: #3 run D, #1 in run stops
Weeks 11-17: #33 run D, #13 run stops
The Browns are expected to shift to more four-man defensive fronts, but we consulted our resident scheming expert (rufio) on what to expect on Shelton’s usage under Williams. Some notes from rufio:
- Shelton will primarily be at the 1-technique (which is actually a 2i-technique in the Over G scheme that Williams ran most of the time in LA).
- In the 1-technique, Shelton would not line up directly over the center, but rather a little closer to the inside shoulder of the offensive guard. The adjustment in the “Over G” scheme is that he’d line up wider to where he’s actually lined up over the inside shoulder of the offensive guard, helping protect a team’s smaller linebackers a little more.
- Shelton’s job is mostly the same as the previous scheme and fits Shelton well: don't let the offensive line up to block the linebackers without slowing them down. He will also pass rush when and where he can, along with maybe working in a few more stunts per game to help free up a guy like Myles Garrett and/or whoever the 3-technique is.
PFF has some more background information and a graphic of the techniques here.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. Emmanuel Ogbah - Starting Left Defensive End
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 275 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Oklahoma State
People may forget how highly the Browns thought of Ogbah when they drafted him in 2016. Cleveland owned the No. 32 overall pick and could have leveraged that into more assets, but they believed enough in Ogbah that they didn’t want to let him slip away. As a rookie, Ray Horton and the Browns toyed around with his role way too much, making him go back-and-forth between learning defensive end and outside linebacker at the NFL level.
Eventually — and if memory serves correct, it was around the time that Jamie Collins was acquired — the Browns let Ogbah settle in as a defensive end. The final two months of the season, he appeared to have found his comfort zone, finishing the year with 53 tackles and 5.5 sacks. PFF, despite giving Ogbah a pretty poor overall grade for the season, made note of his late-season increase in production:
Browns OLB Emmanuel Ogbah came on strong during the last seven games of 2016. pic.twitter.com/i6EGW5x72z— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 17, 2017
Like Shelton made a leap in production from year one to year two, I believe we saw enough growth and potential from Ogbah to believe he’ll have a good leap in 2017 as well. rufio believes that Ogbah’s best role in Williams’ defense is as a left defensive end/strong side end. This will hold true for a few other players (Carl Nassib and Desmond Bryant), but that left defensive end role is “ideal for a power rusher who gets a good pass rush while still being able to hold up at the point of attack.”
After minicamp ended in mid-June, Browns defensive line coach Clyde Simmons said that Ogbah is a "classic left defensive end" and that he's still learning his spot and getting used to putting his hand in the dirt vs. standing up as a linebacker. I’d pick Ogbah as the favorite to start on that left side, though we’ll ultimately see a lot of mixing and matching across the line.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. Myles Garrett - Rookie Defensive End
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 272 lbs | Age: 21
Experience: Rookie | College: Texas A&M
I don’t know if there is a Browns fan out there who can contain their excitement over getting to see what Garrett, the first overall pick of the draft, has to offer. It was the first time since 2000, when the team selected Courtney Brown, that they had the first overall pick.
Garrett has had praise heaped on him from just about every draft pundit, and then every coach on the Browns’ staff. When he participated at the NFL Combine, he ran the risk of a letdown. Instead, he either met or exceeded expectations in just about every measurable and has been referred to as a “generational talent.”
Based on combine measurables, Myles Garrett is taller than Julio, heavier than Gronk, quicker than Devonta Freeman and faster than J. Landry— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) April 27, 2017
It wasn’t just fancy Combine numbers that made Garrett a top pick; he graded extremely well over a three-year span at Texas A&M:
Hall of Famer Bruce Smith is expected to take Garrett under his wing, and it also sounds like he'll come to training camp at points as part of that process. During minicamp, Garrett suffered a mild foot sprain, but he is expected to be ready for training camp. The Browns will have to find a delicate balance between giving Garrett a lot of first-team reps in camp to get him acclimated to the NFL, and making sure they don’t re-aggravate some of the small injury issues he’s seemed prone to.
Regarding his position, rufio says that Garrett was “born to play right defensive end.”
Final Roster Odds: 100%
4. Desmond Bryant - Veteran Defensive End
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 310 lbs | Age: 31
Experience: 9 years | College: Harvard
At the end of May, Bryant participated in his first offseason practice since suffering a torn pectoral last offseason. At his best, the Bryant we were familiar with from 2014-2015 was a solid, but not elite, defensive end who could be stable against the run and rushing the passer. Hue Jackson had Bryant on his team in Oakland for 2011 and is a really big fan of his.
“Desmond was one of my favorites from Oakland,” said Jackson. “For him to go back and be the player he was, it's going to give us a huge boost.” Browns defensive line coach Clyde Simmons said that Bryant "brings veteran savvy and knows how to play." Those things all sound well-and-good, but they are based on Bryant’s past productivity. Only time will tell whether Bryant can play at that same level again — if not, the Browns have a very loaded defensive line in terms of youth, and chances are that someone between Bryant, Xavier Cooper, Nate Orchard, and Jamie Meder are going to get the axe.
Bryant is used to playing a versatile role, so when Gregg Williams says that every player on defense needs to learn two positions, Bryant already has that covered. He'll see a mix of being at the 3-technique (one of the defensive tackles) and a defensive end spot.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
5. Carl Nassib - High Energy Pass-Rushing Specialist
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 275 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 2 years | College: Penn State
Although Nassib was a 3rd round pick in 2016 (No. 65 overall), his high level of play in the preseason last year got fans very excited about his prospects. Nassib came on strong in Week 1, finishing the game with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pass deflection. But then, he suffered a broken hand against the Ravens. He only missed two weeks of action, but the productivity dropped off the remainder of the season. His high motor was still there, but opposing teams had very little issue containing him, and he proved to be a liability in run defense.
As far as 2017 goes, defensive line coach Clyde Simmons said that Nassib will "still have a big role on defense," which is why I chose him as the final defensive lineman to be represented in Part 1 of our preview. With the additional players Cleveland drafted this year (Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, and Caleb Brantley), and guys like Emmanuel Ogbah and Nate Orchard moving down to defensive end, Gregg Williams might be able to use Nassib in some more pass-rushing packages as opposed to being an everydown lineman. That could come from the edge or the 3-technique. He can also use his length to bat down some passes.
Final Roster Odds: 98%
Today’s poll asks about Desmond Bryant and whether you think he’ll make the team.
If you had to place a lot of money on either choice concerning Desmond Bryant making the 53-man roster, what would you pick?
This poll is closed
Bryant makes the 53-man roster
Bryant ends up getting cut