Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey has spent a considerable amount of time reworking the team’s defensive line.
Last year’s roster cutdown saw the release of defensive ends Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard. This offseason saw the trade of defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The biggest moves came with the free agent signing of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and the trade for defensive end Olivier Vernon.
Adding Richardson and Vernon to incumbent starters Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi has helped add fuel to one of the most-hyped Browns team in decades and led NFL.com’s Chris Wesserling to select the group as the deepest defensive line in the league:
Myles Garrett graduated from first overall pick with potential to the terror coming off the edge to occupy the mind of the opposing coaching staff and fanbase each time the quarterback steps back to throw in crunch time. The total package at defensive end, Garrett is NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s bold pick for 2019 Defensive Player of the Year. A bit of a lone wolf last year, Garrett will now have the luxury of lining up opposite Olivier Vernon, often the single bright spot on the Giants’ defense, once his nagging ankle injury healed in November and December. Similarly, unheralded run-stuffer Larry Ogunjobi has help in the form of rent-a-tackle Sheldon Richardson, who got his career back on track with a strong season in Minnesota. Along with Cleveland’s remodeling, the Jaguars, Panthers, Chargers and Colts deserve mention for their own overhauls up front.
The additions of Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson - with Garrett and Ogunjobi already in the fold - have made the #Browns pass-rush a top-3 unit heading into 2019https://t.co/X8PjiDVHdM pic.twitter.com/Xb1wDboYQV— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) July 18, 2019
Wesserling is not alone in buying into the potential along the defensive line. Michael Renner at Pro Football Focus ranked the league’s pass-rush units and the Browns check in at No. 3:
Renner only put the Browns at No. 14 against the run, but still pointed out the potential for that number to change:
The Browns have the potential to end up a lot higher on this list when all is said and done. We’re particularly excited to see what Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi are capable of when not forced to play every single snap. Garrett earned an 80.2 run-defense grade last season while Ogunjobi was at 73.0.
While hype is fun, results are far more important. And while it would be hard to argue that the starting unit along the defensive line is better, the depth is still a question. It doesn’t matter how talented Garrett, Ogunjobi, Richardson and Vernon are if the coaches are forced to play them too much because the backups are not up to the task.
How the backups shake out on the defensive line will be something to keep a close eye on during training camp and the preseason. If they can hold their weight, then the defensive line should be able to live up to all the preseason hype.