Our next position to preview leading up to Cleveland Browns training camp is the defensive line. This preview will be broken down into three parts, covering all 15 of the team’s linemen. Part 1 will look at the top 5 defensive ends, Part 2 will look at the top 5 defensive tackles, and Part 3 will look at the rest of the bunch.
1. Myles Garrett - Starting Right Defensive End
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 272 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: 2 years | College: Texas A&M
In the past few years, there are two moments that just zapped my fandom from the ultimate high to the ultimate low in a moment’s notice. The first came just before the start of Day 2 of the NFL Draft in the year we took Johnny Manziel, because that is when we learned that Josh Gordon was being suspended. The other moment came just before the start of Week 1 last year when we learned that Myles Garrett would miss the opener (and more time) with an ankle injury.
Garrett played 11 games as a rookie, finishing with 31 tackles and 7 sacks, including a sack of QB Josh McCown on his first career snap. Here is a quick highlight reel from his first season as a pro:
The #Browns have a very special player in Myles Garrett. Rare blend of size, speed, power and athleticism. He’s going to be a franchise cornerstone for a very long time. pic.twitter.com/BFwJPSlocw— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) May 10, 2018
Despite his shortened season, Garrett delivered the goods according to Pro Football Focus. They had him graded with the most sacks, hits, and hurries among rookies at his position. He had high marks among all 4-3 defensive ends as well. The sky is the limit for Garrett’s potential, and the expectation should be that he delivers a Pro Bowl caliber season in year two while having less of a pitch count on his reps.
In the eleven weeks he played, #Browns Myles Garrett was 7th in QB hits, T-7th in sacks, 17th in pass rush productivity among all 4-3 ends.— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) May 26, 2018
He led all rookies at the position in sacks, hits, hurries. https://t.co/fcnnglj91h pic.twitter.com/fyK6D8oblU
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. Emmanuel Ogbah - Starting Left Defensive End
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 275 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 3 years | College: Oklahoma State
Gregg Williams has a lot of faith in Emmanuel Ogbah. When the team was weighing whether to draft Bradley Chubb or Denzel Ward at No. 4 overall, it’s believed that Williams influenced the decision. Part of his thought process was, “I already have Garrett and Ogbah; I don’t need another top defensive end compared to a top cornerback.”
Through 10 games last year, Ogbah had registered 29 tackles, 4 sacks, 6 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles. For two seasons now, he has played the run at an above average level. After his season ended abruptly due to a broken foot, Cleveland’s run defense suffered immediately. PFF said that teams averaged 2.41 YPC when running toward Ogbah’s side when he was healthy. In the first couple of games without Ogbah, that number skyrocketed to 4.55 YPC.
Little more Ogbah for your liking. He is a force in the run game. pic.twitter.com/3oZbJhPgB7— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) April 18, 2018
Because of Garrett’s injury coming at the beginning of the year and Ogbah’s coming at the end, we only got a small taste of what the dynamic duo could do together. That should make for a lot of excitement in 2018 if they both stay healthy.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. Carl Nassib - Backup Defensive End
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 275 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 3 years | College: Penn State
This could be a do-or-die camp for Carl Nassib, who is now entering his third season. He was the benefactor of Garrett and Ogbah being hurt last year, but he wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunity much, finishing the year with 3 sacks and 5 passes defended. He also had several costly penalties last year, including what could have been “the play of the season” — a pick six by Myles Garrett that was negated because Nassib was offsides (and it didn’t even matter to the outcome of the play).
In terms of a roster battle, Nassib now faces competition from rookie third-round pick Chad Thomas. And even though he’s not listed in this preview (it was more convenient to include him in the defensive tackle preview), the signing of Chris Smith likely puts him ahead of Nassib at defensive end too. I believe Nassib is now fighting with Nate Orchard and the undrafted players for the fifth defensive end spot. The good thing is that I’ve always felt Nassib would be better suited for specific packages, when he can use his length and hustle to impact the game.
Final Roster Odds: 50%
4. Chad Thomas - Rookie Defensive End
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 278 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: Rookie | College: Miami
The Browns selected Chad Thomas with the 67th overall pick of the draft at the beginning of the 3rd round, which was considered somewhat of a reach.
After drafting Thomas, VP of Player Personnel Andrew Berry called him “one of the most physical defensive linemen in the draft,” citing that “his run defense will (allow him) to play immediately in the NFL as a left defensive end.” Berry also said that Thomas can rush the passer from the inside. The significant dropoff in 2017 from when Ogbah left the lineup comes into play here when you think of Thomas’ abilities against the run.
Waiting for Next Year did film review on some of Thomas’ college work, which included his ability to set the edge against the run as a strength. Despite his hands being a potential strength, WFNY points out his lack of consistency in using them as a weakness, to go along with his lack of finishing plays or displaying a counter move in pass-rushing situations.
Thomas missed mandatory minicamp due to a groin injury, but it is believed he will be ready-to-go for training camp, where he should fit in to the second-team defense pretty quickly.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
5. Nate Orchard - Veteran Defensive End
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 255 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 4 years | College: Utah
Nate Orchard is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and is stunningly considered the “veteran” of these five players. He was written off for making the roster last year, but still stayed around as a rotational player. That becomes more difficult to do in 2018 due to the aforementioned players that have been added.
What is funny is that Orchard is just one of two players remaining of the 12 that Cleveland selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. The other player will stick around -- that is RB Duke Johnson. Last year, Orchard registered 25 tackles and 2 sacks. I think Cleveland would love to trade the former second-round pick for another player or a low draft pick, but I don’t know if the market will be that hot for him. I think Orchard will make it through most of camp as an insurance policy for depth if other players get hurt, but as things stand, he’s not favored to make the roster.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
In Part 2 of our DL preview, we will look at the top 5 defensive tackles on the roster. Our poll question today asks whether you believe Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard will make the roster in 2018.
Will Carl Nassib & Nate Orchard make the roster?
This poll is closed
Carl Nassib & Nate Orchard will make it
Only Carl Nassib will make it
Only Nate Orchard will make it
Neither player will make it