Part 2 of our defensive line preview heading into Cleveland Browns training camp will focus on the team’s top five defensive tackles.
6. Larry Ogunjobi - The Next Ndamukong Suh
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 305 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 2 years | College: Charlotte
When the Browns decided to trade Danny Shelton to the New England Patriots this offseason, I immediately thought about how confident the team must feel in their young core of affordable defensive tackles (which they have four of — Larry Ogunjobi, Trevon Coley, Jamie Meder, and Caleb Brantley).
Coley was the workhorse of the group last year, but right now, we’re talking about Ogunjobi, who only played 28.3% of the snaps on the season. His lack of reps was somewhat frustrating during the 2017 campaign, but it was not as big of a deal because of how well the unit was performing as a whole. Ogunjobi excelled in run defense in college and that carried over to the NFL, where he graded highly among rookie interior defensive tackles and led all rookies with the league’s best run stop percentage.
The fun reference to Ndamukong Suh simply comes from what media member Evan Silva said back in February on local sports radio. Obviously, it is an ambitious comparison, but when you look at the sheer power that Ogunjobi has and how he can push a lineman back three yards effortlessly at times, I get where Silva is coming from.
Although he only finished the season with 1 sack, PFF also had him graded as the 14th best defensive tackle in pass rushing productivity in the NFL. It’s possible that Cleveland will feel that Ogunjobi’s ability to thrive will diminish with more playing time, but I’m taking the approach that Shelton’s departure was meant to unleash the beast that is Larry Ogunjobi.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
7. Trevon Coley - Starting Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 310 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Florida Atlantic
If I polled random Browns fans on the street, I think one of the starters from a season ago who they would least likely know the name of is Trevon Coley. Coley started all 15 games he was healthy enough to be active for and played in 61.5% of the snaps on defense, the highest among the team’s defensive tackles. Danny Shelton was the next closest at 43.9%, followed by Larry Ogunjobi (28.3%), Caleb Brantley (20.3%), and Jamie Meder (16.7%).
Coley finished the season with 41 tackles and 2 sacks. It is a position that could be upgraded, so he will have to fight to retain his starting role in 2018. But he also proved he could be a solid contributor against the run and in rushing the passer, which figures to guarantee his spot on the 53-man roster. Here is a clip last year of him him forcing a fumble after beating his man.
Coley will be utilized as a three-technique defensive lineman, lining up on the outside shoulder of an offensive guard just as he did in the play above.
Final Roster Odds: 99%
8. Chris Smith - Veteran Defensive Lineman
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 266 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 5 years | College: Arkansas
The Browns signed Chris Smith to a 3-year, $12 million deal this offseason as one of their free agent pickups. Even though I am including Smith in the defensive tackle preview, he will be one of the team’s more versatile rotational linemen, seeing action at defensive end and then inside for some pass-rushing situations.
Despite not starting a single game last year, Ryan McCrystal of Bleacher Report noted that Smith had more quarterback pressures than anyone on the Browns in 2017, calling him a “legit pass-rush threat.” The Browns were very big on playing all of their linemen on gameday last year, and you can already tell how certain players fulfill niches (Smith as a pass rusher, and then rookie Chad Thomas as a run stopper). Smith hasn’t started a game in four years, and that is unlikely to change in Cleveland.
Final Roster Odds: 99%
9. Jamie Meder - Veteran Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 308 lbs | Age: 27
Experience: 4 years | College: Ashland
Jamie Meder returns for another season after signing his exclusive rights free agent tender this offseason. A starter in 2016, Meder became a reserve last year, playing in 10 games with just 13 tackles before his season came to an end due to injury. Deep down, Hue Jackson has to have a sense of loyalty to Meder due to the blocked field goal he had against the Chargers in 2016, giving the club their only win in two years.
I thought Meder’s lack of playing time a year ago and coming off of an injury would hurt his roster odds in 2018. But the team hasn’t added many new players to the position, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams recently called Meder “one of the best run players in the NFL.” Meder won’t be a physically dominant starter in the NFL, but he still fits well in Cleveland if Williams continues to deploy his heavy rotation of defensive linemen to keep everyone fresh.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
10. Caleb Brantley - Competing Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 307 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Florida
Every time Caleb Brantley played in 2018, I kept remembering the scouting reports that stressed how he was a 6th round pick with 2nd round potential. Very few players actually live up to that potential, but it was his off-the-field concerns that depleted his draft stock. He was cleared of those issues, and then when the regular season came, it only took a few weeks before Brantley started to be involved in the rotation.
When he received his opportunity, he showed some promising signs. Known as a player who could blow up run and pass plays in college, he wasn’t able to display that level of explosiveness as a rookie. However, he didn’t look overmatched either, which is always a good sign for a rookie. His run defense was respectable, and toward the end of the season, some of his pass-rushing abilities were on display. Here is a sample of the type of quickness Brantley can have on display:
Caleb Brantley can play really damn fast when he wants. His potential going into Year 2 will be fascinating. Really quick with his hands inside. pic.twitter.com/ZITpW3odYk— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) December 12, 2017
After Ogunjobi, Brantley has the highest ceiling to be a starting-caliber player. Ultimately, I think Ogunjobi and Coley will still be the starters, but that Brantley will be next in line.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
Our final defensive line preview in Part 3 will look at the names you’ve seldom heard of. Our poll question for today is a long one — which duo (not including Chris Smith) would you start at defensive tackle for Cleveland?
Which defensive tackle pairing do you want to see start for the Browns?
This poll is closed
Larry Ogunjobi, Trevon Coley
Larry Ogunjobi, Jamie Meder
Larry Ogunjobi, Caleb Brantley
Trevon Coley, Jamie Meder
Trevon Coley, Caleb Brantley
Jamie Meder, Caleb Brantley