Don’t look now, but three of the four starters on the Browns’ defensive line from 2020 are gone. In their stead, are some new guys.
And after the upcoming NFL draft, more new guys will be mixed into that recipe of the defense to rush the passer and stop the run. Which, those other guys didn’t do. Cleveland was ranked 30th against the run last year.
This included the third most rushing yards (2,374), fifth most rushing touchdowns (21) and also yards per carry (4.8), seventh most rushes for first downs (133), plus the second most runs of 20-yards or more (21).
With those horrid numbers, something had to change. No, make that, someone had to change addresses.
With the defensive end position, Olivier Vernon wasn’t re-signed, but backup Porter Gustin was. Adrian Clayborn, Joey Ivie and Trevon Young were cut before the free agency period began. Other signings were Cameron Malveaux, Takk McKinley and Jadeveon Clowney.
At defensive tackle, starter Larry Ogunjobi was allowed to leave via free agency and then found a new home in the division with Cincinnati. The other starter at defensive tackle, Sheldon Richardson, was waived the day after the Clowney signing. Sheldon Day and veteran Malik Jackson were signed to the roster to compete with Jordan Elliott and veteran Andrew Billings.
So, defensive end looks pretty good. Defensive tackle? Well......
Elliott (6’-4”, 302 pounds) was a rookie last season having been taken in the third-round of last year’s draft. He played sparingly the first portion of last year, then was a constant going down the stretch. He even started one game. His numbers were 15 total tackles and not much else.
Billings (6’-1”, 328 pounds) has three years under his belt, but was an opt-out last year after being signed in free agency in 2020. His career numbers pre-pandemic are not eye-popping: 80 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 12 QB hits. In his best season he had just 35 tackles.
Day (6’-1”, 285 pounds) has been in the league for five seasons. Originally a fourth-round pick of Jacksonville in 2016, the Browns are now his fourth club. His stats are negligible even though he has played in 60 NFL games, but just two starts. He is 26-years old.
Jackson (6’-5”, 290 pounds) has had great success in the past with two NFL clubs, has been to the Pro Bowl and owns a Super Bowl ring. His career numbers are 267 total tackles, 99 QB hits, 61 tackles for loss, 25 pass defenses, six forced fumbles and 35 sacks. However, the 31-year old has played sparingly since Week 10 of the 2019 season.
With this group, the Browns are hoping Elliott is the best option at one DT spot despite being in the league only a single season. But, what about the other? The underachieving Billings? The aged Jackson? Journeyman Day?
Is it possible the Browns will go defensive tackle in the first-round?
If this occurs, the best option is Christian Barmore of Alabama. Barmore is 6’-5”, 310 pounds of raw clay just waiting to be molded.
First and foremost, Barmore is an excellent run defender. That checks that box. He possesses raw power and is versatile to play 1 or 3 technique in an even front. He is more of a power rusher than one who has a ton of moves. Barmore can create vertical push and is a very disruptive player.
Barmore comes from a long pipeline of great defensive linemen coming out of Alabama. He is agile and has a tendency to keep his feet moving. He shows decent speed out to the edge as well as in a straight line. Fluid moving laterally, quickly changes direction, and explodes off the snap with a terrific first step. With him in the game, opponents are forced to focus on him.
He needs to improve his overall playing strength, and does not handle the double-team with any success. Barmore will also have to learn to contend with larger offensive linemen.
He has tremendous potential. Knee bend is essential on the D-line interior, which Barmore shows consistency in this aspect.
In the National Championship Game, a 52-24 Alabama victory over Ohio State, Barmore was an absolute beast. He logged five tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. He is an explosive player which has to be dealt with. He is very big and thick. Barmore has heavy hands and places his punches well.
In all, Barmore can become an impact player even as a rookie.
On several draft sites, Barmore is listed on Big Boards as the following:
Pro Football Focus: 12th overall
The Draft Network: 50th overall
Walter Football: 24th overall
Fan Speak: 20th overall
Great Blue North: 34th overall
Pro Football Network: 40th overall
Tankathon.com: 35th overall
USA Today: 44th overall
CBS Sports: 25th overall
NFL.com: 42nd overall
ESPN: 32nd overall