With preseason set to start, here is my official defensive preview of the 2017-18 Cleveland Browns.
As the Browns begin to make preparations for their first preseason game vs. the visiting New Orleans Saints, I had the pleasure of seeing Gregg Williams newly revamped 4-3 defense at the Brown and Orange Scrimmage, and came away rather impressed with what I saw.
Mind you, it’s just a scrimmage, and one cannot be too careful to glean too much from a glorified inter-squad practice, but if there is one thing, I can say is that Cleveland’s defense in 2017-18 will not resemble the ones from years past.
Myles Garrett. Freak. Pure and simple.
The one player that many in attendance came to see was the top overall pick out of Texas A&M in Garrett, and he didn’t disappoint as he commanded double-teams, and proved to be both explosive and faster than one who is almost 6’5 and 270-plus pounds should be. Surely, after seeing his touch touch-sacks during the scrimmage, the 20,000-plus already got visions of seeing the much-hated Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton getting sacked by Garrett.
Other observations from what the Browns 2017-18 defense could possibly look like are:
The secondary will be key, as Cleveland had one of the most targeted and suspect units in the NFL, Williams’ influence on the defense was evident in the aggressive and physical press and bump coverage that Joe Haden and Jason McCourty were playing and the physicality that rookie Jabrill Peppers showed in laying out a couple of hard hits.
Second-year middle linebacker Joe Schobert has a nose for the ball. Whether it is against he run or pass, the former Wisconsin Badger seemed to be everywhere and has the look and style of a Clay Matthews-like linebacker with range and an attitude. With linebackers Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins will likely play a lot of pass coverage and occasionally chip in on the run, look for Schobert to man the middle for Cleveland.
Cleveland’s defensive line will finally get pressure on opposing QB’s For too long, Cleveland defensive lines of the past were either unable to generate pressure in the forms of sacks, pressures, or even appear to stop opposing running backs. Based on what I witnessed from Garrett’s two sacks, linebackers flying all around towards the ball, and constantly making Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler uncomfortable, the Browns front four has that “edge” that could legitmally be a sleeper top-ten defense.
You have Garrett on the outside with second-year defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah on the other, with an emerging force in Danny Shelton and Desmond Bryant forming a formidable one-two punch up on the inside, and teams will think twice about running on Cleveland.
Below is my projected Cleveland Browns 2017-18 starting defense:
RDE: Myles Garrett (R)
DT: Desmond Bryant
DT: Danny Shelton
LDE: Emmanuel Ogbah
SLB: Jamie Collins
MLB: Joe Schobert
WLB: Christian Kirksey
CB: Joe Haden
CB: Jason McCourty
FS: Derrick Kindred
SS: Jabrill Peppers (R)