Za’Darius Smith is coming to the Cleveland Browns with an appetite for sacks.
Smith was traded to the Browns on May 12, coming over from the Minnesota Vikings. He got off to a scorching start with 8.5 sacks in his first seven games last season, finishing with 10 and being named to his third Pro Bowl.
Now he gets to team up with Myles Garrett and he’s ready to give offensive lines around the league headaches with his new dance partner. Smith reposted a graphic from the NFL Instagram account that pictured both him and Garrett with the caption: “Lots of sacks incoming for this new Cleveland Browns duo.”
Smith added his own twist on the repost, writing “LET’S EAT,” which has quickly become a rallying cry for the Browns defensive line. Fellow pass-rusher Ogbo Okoronkwo welcomed Smith to the team with a tweet saying the same thing.
The rookies are also revved up to have Smith on board, with fourth-round pick Isaiah McGuire discussing it during rookie minicamp the day after the news broke.
“Oh, man. For me, it was definitely exciting. You know, me being a rookie coming in, having the opportunity to learn from a great vet such as Darius as well as the other people in the room is truly an honor and a blessing,” McGuire said. “I’m excited to learn from those people, pick their brains and just improve overall.”
Browns to Utilize Rotation at Defensive End Under Jim Schwartz
The Browns now have three pass-rushing options that they like in Smith, Garrett and Okoronkwo. It was the plan all along to get one more veteran option alongside their All-Pro Garrett and Okoronkwo, who inked a deal with the team this offseason, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
“Oddly enough, the fact the Browns have a new double-digit sacker in town doesn’t adversely impact Okoronkwo, who will still likely get as many snaps as he would’ve,” Cabot wrote. “The Browns have known all along that they’d acquire a proven third rusher to rotate with Garrett and Okoronkwo, and if it wasn’t Smith, it would’ve been former Rams edge rusher Melvin Ingram III or someone else.”
The odd man out is likely rookie end Alex Wright, who will now have to have a strong showing in camp to earn his reps. Wright started five games last season but did not record a sack and had just 12 pressures in 311 pass-rush snaps.
Jim Schwartz Seeking to Make Myles Garrett Even More Productive
The Browns brought in Jim Schwartz this offseason as their new defensive coordinator and he’s bringing an attacking scheme to Cleveland. He’s known for getting the most out of his front seven and envisions Garrett — who is coming off back-to-back 16-sack seasons — being even more productive.
“I think that every offense we will play will probably start with that – how do we neutralize Myles Garrett and how do we keep him from wrecking this game?” Schwartz said in his introductory press conference in January. “It is my job to give him some answers and to be able to put some pieces scheme-wise and personnel-wise around him to allow him to be free and more productive. When I say more productive, what?  sacks? That answers your question; the bar is set really high for a good reason.”
One of the more significant holes for the Browns was replacing Jadeveon Clowney, who had been playing opposite Garrett the last two seasons. His final year in Cleveland didn’t go as planned but Clowney notched nine sacks in 2021.
In addition to Smith and Okoronkwo, the Browns have also added some pieces at defensive tackle. Rookie DT Siaki Ika raved about Schwartz’s scheme during camp.
“Real fast, explosive, and vertical,” Ika said. “A little bit different than what I’ve been used to. I’ve been playing a lot of blocks throughout college. All I pretty much know. So I’ll be able to get here and be in a system where everything goes forward, vertical, I will just disrupt, really excited about it.”