Few NFL teams experienced as much defensive turnover this offseason as the Browns. Gone are five full-time starters and a handful of part-timers. Cleveland, despite ending a near two-decade long playoff drought, stood to improve on all three levels after ranking in the 20s in points allowed and defensive DVOA last year.
After signing pass rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley, linebacker Anthony Walker and former Rams defensive backs John Johnson and Troy Hill, the Browns are easily better on paper. Their best defensive player believes they’ll be much better come game time as well.
“I think we can do a lot,” defensive end Myles Garrett said Thursday, per Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I don’t know what we’re doing in the draft, that’s all up to [Kevin Stefanski]. But with the pieces we have now, I think we’ll be very scary, so I’m looking forward to it. Getting on the field, taking the ball away and putting it back in our offense’s hands and them getting the ball back for us.”
The Browns also have 2019 first-round cornerback Greedy Williams and 2020 second-round safety Grant Delpit set to return in the secondary, after both missed all of last season with injuries. But their biggest need was restocking, if not improving, their pass rush. The team’s four highest sack producers after Garrett — Olivier Vernon (9.0), Sheldon Richardson (4.5), Adrian Clayborn (3.5) and Larry Ogunjobi (2.5) — moved on.
Cleveland is betting big that Clowney can cover some of that loss. The presence of Garrett, who’s developed into one of the best edge defenders in football, is reason for optimism. Prior to struggling the past two years as a focal point with the Seahawks and Titans, Clowney’s best work came in Houston when he was flanked alongside J.J. Watt for parts of three Pro Bowl seasons.
Now he’s paired with another All-Pro defensive end, who sees a lot of himself in the fellow former No. 1 pick.
“I know everyone else is looking forward to it, and so am I,” Garrett said. “I know the guy is aggressive, really gets after it and he has a motor, keeps attacking, plays the run well and a good pass rusher. He’s an athletic specimen like someone I know on the Browns, so it will be fun. It really will.”
Perhaps for Cleveland, if not anyone else.
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