The Cleveland Browns Super Bowl window is officially open. This means that every single step going forward must be calculated and executed with perfection, and so far they have been. The Browns arguably had one of the top-ranked 2021 draft classes, as well as one of the best free-agent signing periods in the league. They acquired the defensive firepower that they were missing last season. They were able to add another ball-hawking safety, depth at cornerback, and athletic linebackers. A few established Cleveland defenders have been released throughout the process in order to financially plan for the future as well. Yes, letting household names like Larry Ogunjobi, B.J. Goodson, and Terrance Mitchell go from the 2020 roster certainly hurts, but these transactions make for some exciting training camp battles within the coming months. One of the more under-the-radar Browns 2021 training camp battles is at defensive tackle.
Browns 2021 Training Camp Will Have Some Battles, Including At Defensive Tackle
Cleveland has had a knack over the last few years of playing a style of defense that puts less emphasis on the 3-technique and 1- technique designation for their defensive tackles. For instance, they played Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi at both spots last season. Yes, this shows player versatility, but it also shows their weaknesses. Although the Browns rush defense in 2020 was rather good in certain areas, they still gave up 116 rushing first downs. Opponents got first downs against Cleveland’s defense 28.2% of the time with runs, which was fifth-worst in the NFL. One of the main reasons for this is because Cleveland could absolutely not stop teams in short-yardage situations when it really mattered.
Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi do not have the bulk required to consistently play inside at 1-Technique. The good thing for Cleveland is that Andrew Billings, Tommy Togiai, and Marvin Wilson do. Though Tommy Togiai and Marvin Wilson are tremendous athletes and players, it would be surprising if Billings doesn’t win the starting job at 1-Technique based on sheer size, brute strength, and experience. But Togiai and Wilson could both end up making the roster and be key members in the rotation.
Cleveland also has a plethora of players vying for the starting 3-technique position in camp. Jordan Elliott and Malik Jackson are currently seen as the frontrunners to win the job. Damion Square, Malik McDowell, and Sheldon Day will not only be fighting to cement a spot in the rotation but also battling to make the final 53-man roster. The 3-technique defensive tackle is usually considered to be the more agile, pass rusher type in comparison to the bigger, run-stopping 1- technique tackle. Both Elliott and Jackson have shown that they can consistently get to the quarterback. Elliott was one of the top pass-rushing defensive tackles in the 2020 draft class, and Jackson was the Philadelphia Eagles “go-to” interior pass rusher last season. Both players put up quality PFF grades in 2020 with limited snap percentages, but will now be tasked with putting up full-time production that matches their short-term efficiency.
It’s going to be really fun watching this interior defensive line competition play out during training camp.