The Cleveland Browns were a mess on the defensive line in 2022.
Stopping the run was nothing more than a rumor, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney quit on the team, and no one outside of defensive end Myles Garrett was able to consistently pressure the quarterback.
General manager Andrew Berry took an aggressive approach in the offseason to rectify the situation, replacing defensive coordinator Joe Woods with the more-established Jim Schwartz, and providing reinforcements for Garrett with the additions of Ogbo Okoronkwo, Za’Darius Smith and Dalvin Tomlinson, among others.
Berry did not stop there, however, as the Browns also added free-agent defensive tackle Shelby Harris on August 10. The 10-year veteran brings another experienced player to the defensive line after playing in 98 games while spending time with the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
On Monday, Harris was a guest on The Sirius/XM Blitz with hosts Rhett Lewis and Rich Gannon and spoke about his decision to join the Browns and what he expects from the upcoming season.
Harris said joining the Browns was easy after seeing what Berry did in the offseason:
“I wanted to be on a team that I really thought would be a contender. With all the moves that Cleveland made this offseason with signing Dalvin, trading for Za’Darius, bringing in Ogbo and already having Myles, it was almost impossible to say no to this opportunity.”
Even though he has only been in town for a short time, Harris likes the current vibe and culture that the Browns are building throughout the organization:
“I’ve only been here two weeks, but what I’ve seen is a willingness to learn from top to bottom. Nobody thinks they know too much and everyone is willing to learn. That is one of the bigger things you have to see and find, especially when you have some veteran players. The vibe around the team from top to bottom is why I signed with the Browns.
“When I came for my visit they offered for my wife to come along. Just having her feel important and part of the process shows they are doing a lot of things. I love the Browns because they have a lot of women working around the building and I respect that as you need some other viewpoints. They are doing things the right way and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
The opportunity to play in Schwartz’ defensive system, one that emphasizes the defensive line, was also a major selling point:
“I know Jim Schwartz’ system and defensive linemen dream of playing in his system. Being able to have the liberty to go upfield, make plays and be disruptive is what this defense is all about. This defense is made for defensive linemen and being able to have the freedom to go and play there is nothing else like it. This feels like a match made in heaven.”
While much of the attention is on the role of the defensive line, Harris recommended that people should not sleep on the team’s talented secondary:
“If you look at the history of Shwartz’ defense, he has never really had the backend of the defense like he does here and that should take it to another level. You can do things differently with the defense because you do have the corners and safeties to play it. It is very exciting to have dynamic players on the back end (of the defense).”
Finally, Harris talked about why he expects the defensive line to be better against the run this season:
“Stopping the run is a ‘want to’ thing - you have to want to stop the run. It is a mentality and the guys in the room have the needed mentality. Andrew Berry has put together the perfect defensive line room to change all of the problems from last year. Everybody wants to play the run, but when it is time to pass you are licking your chops and ready to go. If you stop the run on first down then sets you up for passing situations on second and third down and gives you the opportunities to hit the quarterback and be disruptive.”
Harris has only been with the Browns for a couple of weeks, so he has yet to face any of the adversity that tends to envelop this team.
But there is much to like about the changes to the defense and if what Harris believes turns out to be true, then there should not be a repeat of last season’s baggy pants farce this fall.