Cleveland Browns Coach Sounds Off on Status of Defensive Line

Myles Garrett

rsvs Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns don’t have many holes on the roster after a pricey offseason, but the one unit with the most question marks remains the defensive line.

What makes the defensive front even more interesting is that it is also the Browns’ area of the field with the most disparate levels of talent between positions. The franchise experienced significant turnover along the line this offseason, but was able to re-sign edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year deal. He will again start opposite All-Pro Myles Garrett after the two combined to tally 25 quarterback sacks in 2021.

However, Cleveland’s edge support staff is full of new faces and the interior remains a major concern with the regular season just three months away and the first mandatory team activities set to begin Tuesday, June 14.

Browns defensive line coach Chris Kiffin last week offered an optimistic assessment of where the group is at moving forward, with a specific focus on the defensive tackle position.

“We addressed [the position] in free agency with Taven [Bryan], and we addressed it in the draft with Perrion [Winfrey],” Kiffin told Anthony Poisal, a Browns staff writer, on Wednesday. “We also expect guys to take that next step with Tommy Togiai and Jordan Elliott. They know they’ve got to step up their game and their time is coming.”

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Browns Part Ways With Both Starting Defensive Tackles From 2021

GettyDefensive tackle Malik McDowell, formerly of the Cleveland Browns, will not be back with the team in 2022. 

The Browns had one of the best edge rushes in the NFL last season and one of the worst defenses up the middle. Neither Malik Jackson nor Malik McDowell, Cleveland’s starters at defensive tackle in 2021, remain with the team.

Jackson agreed a one-year deal worth $3.75 million with the Browns last year and hit the free agency market in March. Cleveland chose not to re-sign the 10-year NFL veteran this offseason. The Browns could have tendered McDowell, 25, but chose not to do so after he was arrested in January under bizarre circumstances.

McDowell was reportedly observed walking nude in public near a school and then is alleged to have charged a police officer and engaged in a “violent attack,” per the South Florida Sun Sentinel.


Browns Will Rely on Young, Unproven Players to Step Up on D-Line

Bonitto Packers Mock

GettyDefensive lineman Perrion Winfrey #8 sacks quarterback Adrian Martinez #2 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers on the last drive during the fourth quarter of a game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Based on the Browns current depth chart, per ESPN, Elliot and Bryan are slated to step into the starting defensive tackle roles for Cleveland next season.

Elliot was a third-round pick of the franchise in 2020 and was a part of the defensive tackle rotation each of the previous two seasons. Elliot has played in 32 of a possible 33 regular season games, starting four of those. He has tallied 41 tackles, four quarterback hits and 0.5 sacks across his first two campaigns in the league, per Pro Football Reference.

Bryan has spent the last four years in relative obscurity as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played in 63 of 65 possible games and earned 17 starts. The former first-round selection amassed 86 tackles, 25 quarterback hits and 5.5 sacks during that time but has failed to live up to his first-round billing. The Jags passed on exercising his fifth-year option for 2022, allowing the tackle to hit the free agent market and land a one-year deal with the Browns worth $4 million.

Winfrey, selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft out of the University of Oklahoma, is slotted as Elliot’s backup. Togiai, a second-year pro out of Ohio State, will play behind Bryan. Six-year NFL veteran Sheldon Day remains on the depth chart as well, currently listed as a third-string option.

As far as the edge rush is concerned, Takkarist McKinley showed promise last season as a free agent on a one-year deal but suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury against the Las Vegas Raiders in December and is no longer a member of the Browns’ roster.

Cleveland traded linebacker Mack Wilson to the New England Patriots in exchange for linebacker Chase Winovich to help replace the pass rush it loses absent McKinley.

The Browns allowed defensive end Porter Gustin to hit free agency, after which he signed a deal to join the Miami Dolphins. Edge rusher Ifeadi Odenigbo also became a free agent and recently joined the Indianapolis Colts.

The Browns drafted pass rushers Alex Wright out of UAB in the third round and Isaiah Thomas out of Oklahoma in the seventh round to help bolster the line. The team also added edge rushers Stephen Weatherly and Isaac Rochell in free agency.

The team can add more help along the interior should it choose to do so, as the Browns retain more than $42 million in cap space this offseason, per Over The Cap.

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