The Cleveland Browns defensive line has been one of the few bright spots on the defensive side of the ball during the first two weeks of the season.
The strength of the line was on display in Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Defensive end Myles Garrett made a momentum-shifting strip sack of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, while defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was all over the field.
Browns DL Sheldon Richardson made an impact as a pass rusher and against the run in Week 2:— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 18, 2020
→ 4 pressures, 3 hurries, 1 sack
→ 9.1% pressure rate
→ 4 run tackles on 19 run snaps
→ On-Field: 2.4 rush YPP allowed (Off: 4.4 rush YPP)#CINvsCLE | #Browns
The line’s depth was also on display as defensive end Adrian Clayborn filled in for starter Olivier Vernon, and defensive end Porter Gustin continued to be a pest.
But it is rookie defensive tackle Jordan Elliott who has been quietly making the most of his opportunities.
Jordan Elliott grade through two games: 78.2— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 22, 2020
1st among rookie DTs
10th among all NFL DTs pic.twitter.com/r1LMsgqUEV
Elliott, the team’s third-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, has been on the field for just 60 plays, but his consistency has landed him on Pro Football Focus’ list of the 10 highest-graded rookies through the first two weeks of the season:
Elliott hasn’t had too many dominant reps in his two weeks, but he has been consistent and has yet to make any bad mistakes. Elliott has earned a 78.2 PFF grade so far, 10th among all interior defensive linemen. And while Elliott has notched just one pressure, he has also won on 13% of his reps, which is a rate that cracks the top 25 at the position.
It’s a similar story against the run. Elliott has no run stops — or even tackles — but he still ninth in run-defense grade because (a). he has yet to be sealed out of a gap and has yet to miss a tackle, and (b). he has had multiple defeated blocks that have caused some disruption for the ball carrier.
Depth along the defensive line was one of the Browns biggest problems last season, which became very evident when Garrett missed the final six games due to a suspension.
But with Elliott and Porter making the most of their opportunities so far, and Clayborn bringing a veteran presence to the second unit, the defensive line should continue to be a strength throughout the season.