In Part 2 of our defensive line preview for Cleveland Browns training camp, we looked at the candidates for the team’s backup defensive tackles. In Part 3, we finish the position off with a look at the final five linemen on the team, all at the defensive end position.
11. Nate Orchard - The Forgotten Man
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 255 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 3 years | College: Utah
One of the biggest question marks I have on a player this season is with Orchard. In 2015, he was the Browns' 2nd round pick at No. 51 overall. Due to the team’s lack of depth at outside linebacker, he was thrust into a starting role a month into his rookie season. He finished the year with 36 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. It was a very underwhelming year for a player who led the nation in sacks during his final year in college.
If there was any shred of hope, though, it was the fact that Orchard played at his best in the final month of the season, when he logged all of his sacks and his lone interception. Just in general, though, he started to come up with a few more impactful plays, similar to how we saw Emmanuel Ogbah get better toward the end of his rookie campaign (although I would say that Ogbah’s rookie season was a level higher than Orchard’s).
Unfortunately for Orchard, three games in to the 2016 season, his first with Hue Jackson, he suffered an ankle injury. The team placed him on injured reserve, which was a little stunning to me at the time because I thought Orchard was a key, young piece of the defense and that a bad ankle injury might only force him to miss 4-6 weeks. The fact that Jackson and company basically said, “no, you’re going on injured reserve” left me with the impression that they didn’t value him as an essential piece to the future.
Now, Orchard will have to find a way to impress new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. He has no real ties to anyone, as the 2015 staff is long gone. The good thing for him is that he’s back at the defensive end spot, which is where he had all of his success in college. What is interesting is that Orchard said that as soon as he could, he got Williams' phone number and called him to plead his case to make the switch back to defensive end in his system. Granted, it might have been a foregone conclusion given Williams’ scheme, but taking that initiative could go a long way in leaving an impression on the veteran coach.
When I look at the depth chart, Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Carl Nassib should all be ahead of Orchard. Depending on where Desmond Bryant is (probably multiple positions), that fourth defensive end spot will still be open. Orchard has to be viewed as the favorite to win that job, but it’s far from set in stone.
Final Roster Odds: 80%
12. Cam Johnson - Veteran Defensive End
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 268 lbs | Age: 27
Experience: 4 years | College: Virginia
Cam Johnson was on the Browns' practice squad for the 2015 season before a Week 17 call-up to the active roster. He was with the Browns in training camp all of 2016, but when he didn't make their final roster, the Arizona Cardinals signed him a month later to their practice squad. After Nate Orchard was placed on IR after Week 3, the Browns signed Johnson to their active roster, where he became a starting outside linebacker by default.
In 12 games, Johnson had 9 starts, totaling 32 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Despite being in the league since 2012, it was Johnson’s first crack at legitimate playing time in the NFL, and he capitalized on it -- not necessarily to the point where you’d think of him as a starter, but to where he seems like the ideal guy to have on the back end of your depth chart.
The issue I see for Johnson this year — and this goes with a few other players too -- is that the defensive line position is very crowded with talent. Remember, with three draft picks and then Desmond Bryant and Nate Orchard returning from injury, we’re talking about five players jumping ahead of him on the depth chart. He’ll try to beat out Orchard for a spot, and could possibly be kept in a special teams/outside linebacker role.
Final Roster Odds: 50%
13. Tyrone Holmes - Backup Pass-Rushing Specialist
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 253 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Montana
Holmes was a sixth-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015 year. When he didn’t make their final roster, the Browns claimed him off waivers. Brent Sobleski of The OBR was high on Holmes coming out of college, ranking him as a fourth-round prospect after leading the FCS with 18 sacks. You can also read a very detailed pre-draft scouting report on Holmes, where he was referred to as “one of the NFL draft's best-kept secrets.”
The Browns first played Holmes in Week 2. On 10 snaps, he registered 3 hurries on the quarterback. Those disruptions don’t show up prominently in the stat sheet, so despite only having 1 sack on the season, it’s important to remember plays like this from him in limited action:
Can see a little bit of why they liked Tyrone Holmes (91), too. pic.twitter.com/JW5G8V3W4s— Dan Labbe (@dan_labbe) September 20, 2016
And it’s not easy to tell in this clip, but Holmes’ pressure on QB Ryan Tannehill in Week 3 helped lead to a pick six for the Browns:
Holmes only played 10-15 snaps each game through Week 11, and then was sat for pretty much the rest of the season as his production started to be neutralized a bit. However, I saw enough flare and potential from him in limited action that I’d love to see whether he can do that again, this time with a whole training camp to work with. Draft status won’t matter with something like Orchard vs. Johnson vs. Holmes — if Holmes clearly demonstrates he can bring this pressure on a regular basis, he could be the last man standing among them.
Final Roster Odds: 50%
14. Jamal Marcus - Rookie UDFA Defensive End
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 240 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: Rookie | College: Akron
An Ohio State transfer, Marcus was one of the Browns’ 11 undrafted free agents signed after the draft. He was a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid in college, and if he’s going to stick at defensive end in Cleveland, he might need to bulk up a little from the 240 pounds he’s listed at. Here is a YouTube clip showing some of his highlights.
Marcus is coming off of a senior season of college in which he suffered injuries to his labrum and humerus, which undoubtedly affected his draft stock. Per the Akron Beacon Journal, Marcus “had 12.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and a team-best 10 hurries on a unit that allowed 92.9 rushing yards per game to rank third in the nation” in 2015, when he was a junior and healthy.
According to Marcus, he has a relationship with Browns defensive line coach Clyde Simmons, which helped him sign on with the team (it’s unclear where their paths have crossed in the past). In an article from rookie minicamp in mid-May, Marcus acknowledged the speed he brings as a hybrid player and said that he was “just under 250 pounds” at the time.
I have Marcus competing for a spot on the practice squad in 2017.
Final Roster Odds: 10%
15. Karter Schult - Rookie UDFA Defensive End
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 258 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: Rookie | College: Northern Iowa
The team’s other undrafted rookie defensive end, he already has the size advantage over Marcus and would be less of a hybrid. Here is a YouTube compilation of his highlights. Despite having few snaps in the East-West Shrine Game this year, Schult made his presence known, per PFF:
Karter Schult (83.5 grade) of Northern Iowa managed a sack & 4 pressures on 16 snaps rushing the passer in the East-West Shrine Game.— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) January 23, 2017
Much like Tyrone Holmes led the FCS in sacks in 2015, Schult accomplished that feat in 2016 with 17 sacks in the FCS. Here is a full game breakdown of Schult’s production against Montana over at Draft Breakdown. Scouting reports say that he was able to "impose his will with physicality and effort" against lesser competition, but that he “lacks a good move and the length needed to make an impact at the NFL level.” I have him also competing for a practice squad spot with Jamal Marcus.
Final Roster Odds: 10%
I’ve got two more poll questions for you:
If only one of these players could make the Browns’ 53-man roster, who would you want it to be?
This poll is closed
Which UDFA defensive end are you more intrigued by?
This poll is closed