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PFF: Browns’ defensive line one of NFL’s most improved units after free agency

Thank you, Oliver Vernon and Sheldon Richardson.

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NFL: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

With most of free agency in the books, Pro Football Focus looked across each team in the NFL and evaluated which position groups were the most improved based on the moves made. Among the top improved units were the Raiders’ wide receivers, Packers’ pass rush, Bills’ offensive line, Jets’ running backs, and then the defensive line of your Cleveland Browns.

Here is a comparison of how the Browns’ starting defensive line graded in 2018, versus how they would’ve graded with the additions now made in 2019:

Here is how PFF highlighted the changes Cleveland has made on the line:

  • DE Olivier Vernon missed time to injury last year, but still graded out with an 86.3. He “consistently beat his blocker with a pass-rush win rate of 18.2% – ninth among 101 edge defenders with at least 150 regular season pass-rush snaps.” In terms of overall grade, Vernon’s 86.3 is a massive upgrade over DE Emmanuel Ogbah’s grade of 58.9.
  • DT Sheldon Richardson has always been a consistent player, playing over 600 snaps and grading as a 70.0+ player each season. When he is playing at his best, he is an elite run defender. Over the past couple seasons, he hasn’t been an elite run defender, but “has remained solid as both a pass rusher and run defender, providing a clear upgrade on the 614 defensive snaps played by Trevon Coley on the interior in 2018.”

One can only expect that the Browns would like to find a third key pass rusher from the defensive end spot, as well as a depth guy they really like inside. Those guys may already be on the roster in DE Chad Thomas and DT Carl Davis, but need to show something after practically being red-shirted last year in their first years in Cleveland.