A year after watching the defense allow 419 points — tied for the fifth-most in franchise history — general manager Andrew Berry rebuilt the defense from front to back.
One of those key additions is defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who signed with the Browns on a one-year deal after playing just eight games in 2020 with the Tennessee Titans due to an injury. It was the third consecutive season that Clowney did not play a full 16 games, but just the first since his rookie season that he did not play in at least 13 games.
Injuries are always going to be a concern with Clowney, so it is understandable that there may be some agita among Browns fans after Clowney missed his second consecutive day of practice on Thursday.
Fortunately, Clowney is just down with an illness — not COVID-19 according to head coach Kevin Stefanski - and defensive coordinator Joe Woods said on Thursday that he is currently not worried that Clowney will miss the game against the Chiefs, according to a team-provided transcript:
“He is ill. He will be fine. I think last week just going through all of the practices, we installed some things so hopefully, we get him back here in the next couple of days.”
If Clowney can stay healthy this season he might be just what the Browns need as a bookend to defensive end Myles Garrett. Clowney is a three-time Pro Bowler and while his sack numbers may not be what some people want, he did have nine-and-a-half sacks in 2017 and nine in 2018. He is also a solid run defender, as Pro Football Focus highlighted in their preseason rankings of defensive ends:
Clowney’s stock across the league is seemingly at a low point as he comes off two injury-limited seasons with Seattle and Tennessee. It’s worth remembering that Clowney is still one of the most disruptive edge defenders in the league when healthy, though. He has been a 95th-percentile run defender at the position since 2014 and put up pass-rushing grades of 75.0 or higher for the first time in his career in each of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The key for Cleveland will be keeping him healthy on what appears to be a much-improved defense following this offseason.
The Browns will need all hands on deck as they take on a Kansas City offense that is one of the league’s best and challenges opposing defenses to stay disciplined, Woods said:
“Schematically for us, we know the issues that they present, but it is really about getting aligned, getting to your right spot based on the motion and then getting focused in on your key. It is hard against these guys, but that is what you have to do in order to have success. We just have to be really good in executing our defense, regardless of how they get to certain plays based on shifts, motion or just lining in certain formations.”
Clowney being available is good news for the Browns, but given his injury history, it would not be a surprise if Woods if facing questions about Clowney’s availability throughout the season.