The Cleveland Browns have a great starting defenisve line, but once you get past the starters the depth players leave a lot to be desired.
Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon are quite the group. These four defensive lineman have a chance to be one of the better defensive lines in all of football. The problem is that the depth of the defensive line is still not great. The Browns will need to address this issue soon and before the regular season begins.
Currently the Browns have the likes of Chris Smith, Anthony Zettel, Chad Thomas and Lenny Jones as the backup defensive ends. This group combined has 136 total tackles over 99 total games. Granted Thomas only appeared in four games and did not register a tackle and Jones did not appear in a game last season, this total is not all that inspiring. Unless the Browns believe they can perform as rotational players, several upgrades are necessary.
The defensive tackle group is not that much better. Trevon Coley, Carl Davis and Brian Price are the players of note in this group. Coley is the only player who has started the majority of the games he has appeared in, all except two. Davis has started previously with Baltimore and Price has bounced around with four teams in three seasons. It is possible that Coley plays better in a non-starting role, but there is a reason that the Browns brought in Sheldon Richardson.
Why worry about backups?
Well it is not as simple as starter and backup when it comes to the defensive line. There are rotations and players are mixed and matched at times to capitalize on their strengths in conjunction with other players and the opponents. There are also times when certain situations require certain players to be on the field that are not necessarily the four starters on the depth chart.
In a perfect world all four starters stay healthy and never get tired and the backup players never see the field. The problem is this never happens. Players will get hurt, it’s inevitable. Players will get tired and will need to take plays off during the course of a game. It is important to have quality players coming into the game when the starters come off. If not the offense will attack the spot the starter just vacated. Then there are injuries. If a starter were to miss any length of time it is critical to have a player who can step in temporarily. If any regular starter were to become injured his replacement is of noticeably lesser quality. Reducing the talent gap between starter and backup is important when building depth on the defensive line.
Is help on the way?
Possibly. A rumor has come up linking Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy to the Cleveland Browns. McCoy has been rumored to be on the trade block for some time now and John Dorsey appears to have come calling. Most of the time when a John Dorsey trade rumor starts it is not if he acquires the player, but when. McCoy would be able to join Ogunjobi and Richardson in the middle and provide Cleveland with a stout rotational middle of the line. A rotating trio of Ogunjobi, Richardson and McCoy would give opponents quite the headache. This would also make the jobs of Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon that much easier.
If Cleveland does not acquire McCoy or anyone else for that matter things should be fine. The thing is that they should not settle for fine. The Browns should set their sights on great. With the proper moves this line could be great. All it takes is just a few adjustments and the Browns defensive line would play at a level that has not been in a long time. It seems like John Dorsey may have something up his sleeve. If it comes to fruition this is a much different story.