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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2020: DL Preview (Part 1)

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Featuring the Browns’ starting defensive line.

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NFL: NOV 03 Browns at Broncos Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With our offensive line previews complete, it is time to turn our attention to the defensive line position. This will be broken down into four parts, starting with DE Myles Garrett, DT Sheldon Richardson, DT Larry Ogunjobi, and DE Olivier Vernon.


Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

1. Myles Garrett - Starting DE

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 272 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 4 years | College: Texas A&M

Coincidentally, Pro Football Focus came out with their defensive line rankings today, and the Browns rank 12th on that list. Myles Garrett is the clear leader of the group. He is entering his fourth season — he had 13.5 sacks in 2018, and then in 2019, he had 10 sacks through 10 games before being suspended the rest of the season for cracking Mason Rudolph in the head with his own helmet. Despite that, the Browns extended Garrett’s contract this past week, making him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

Last year, Pro Football Focus graded Garrett as the top pass-rusher in the NFL (91.6), and say that he has the 3rd best pass rush win rate (25%). He also registered 49 pressures in his 10 games. Garrett has been getting better with each season, although I still feel like he hasn’t even scratched the surface of just how dominant he can be.

If I can point out his weakness from a year ago, it’s the fact that he gets frustrated too easily. He threw an open handed punch in Week 1 and was lucky to not be ejected. He was flagged for several unnecessary roughness penalties. And then he had the snapping moment against the Steelers. As dominant as Garrett can be, if he has a moment or game where he’s not having a huge impact, he loses focus. Given the magnitude of last year’s incident, though, I expect his awareness to be through the roof now in that regard.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

2. Sheldon Richardson - Starting DT

Height: 6-3 | Weight: 294 lbs | Age: 29
Experience: 8 years | College: Missouri

The Browns signed Sheldon Richardson last year to bolster the defensive tackle position. Richardson started all 16 games, finishing with 58 tackles, 3 sacks, and 4 passes defended. It was pretty much on par with the type of play he’s had throughout his career, although there was a stretch during the season in November that he played at a near-elite level for several weeks.

Richardson’s solid play continued through the end of the season. I expect the same type of season out of him for 2020: he’ll be solid most of the time, but will have glimpses of dominance for stretches of time.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

3. Larry Ogunjobi - Starting DT

Height: 6-3 | Weight: 305 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 4 years | College: Charlotte

Larry Ogunjobi has been a starter for the past two years now, putting up nearly identical seasons back-to-back. In 2019, he logged 47 tackles with 5.5 sacks. He missed one game when he was suspended for his actions in the Myles Garrett incident against the Steelers.

I love Ogunjobi’s ability, both as a pass rusher and run defender. My pet peeve over the past two seasons is that the more snaps he gets, he loses some of that effectiveness. When it comes to being a defensive tackle in the NFL, I usually feel that less is more — meaning as long as Ogunjobi is part of a four-man rotation, he’ll be at his best. With the signing of Andrew Billings and drafting of Jordan Elliott, Cleveland is in good shape to have that type of rotation in place. Speaking of good shape, one can never get enough of Ogunjobi’s offseason training videos:

Ogunjobi is in the final year of his rookie contract, so he has every reason to be motivated to earn a nice contract from the Browns or some other team.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

4. Olivier Vernon - Starting DE

Height: 6-2 | Weight: 262 lbs | Age: 29
Experience: 9 years | College: Miami

There was a point in the offseason where many wondered if Olivier Vernon was going to be traded, but now he appears to be staying put. In Vernon’s first season with the Browns, he played in 10 games, logging 24 tackles with 3.5 sacks. That is not the type of production they envisioned when giving away Kevin Zeitler to the Giants. Vernon wasn’t bad; in fact, he was a little above average, playing the pass and the run fairly well. He was even named the Browns’ most underrated players heading into 2020, per PFF. There is still room for improvement, though.

Vernon didn’t put up the sack numbers you would hope for from a top-flight edge defender during injury-shortened seasons the last few years, but his overall grade of 86.3 since signing the big contract in 2016 ranks 21st among qualifying edge defenders. He can still play the run and get after the quarterback at a high level when healthy, and the Browns’ defensive line is better with him on the field.

The most important thing is for him to stay healthy. He hasn’t played a full season since 2016, and having that force opposite of Myles Garrett is important to help unleash Garrett’s full potential (i.e. preventing teams from being able to double or triple team him). One thing that might help is that Cleveland, in addition to having Chad Thomas, added a veteran pass-rushing threat this offseason in Adrian Clayborn.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Poll

How many sacks will Myles Garrett have in 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    20+
    (100 votes)
  • 51%
    16-19
    (272 votes)
  • 27%
    11-15
    (147 votes)
  • 2%
    10 or less
    (13 votes)
532 votes total Vote Now