Defensive line targeted
Now that the roster purge is complete (or is it?), at least we now know where John Dorsey believes one of the Browns’ weaknesses lies.
Having cleaned out last season’s talent-challenged team by nearly 60%, the general manager has identified the defensive line, especially the pass rush from within, as a chief weak spot on defense.
Never mind those seven sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles in exhibition game No. 3. In his first attempt at rearranging the roster since he named the final 53 Saturday, the defensive line was going to get a new look at tackle.
The final 53 was just that for less than 24 hours as Dorsey added defensive linemen Carl Davis and Ifeadi Odenigbo, linebacker Tanner Vallejo, defensive back Tavierre Thomas and offensive lineman Aaron Neary, and subtracted defensive linemen Carl Nassib and Jamie Meder, backup center Austin Reiter, linebacker Jermaine Grace and defensive back Jeremiah McKinnon.
The Browns the last few seasons have had a mediocre at best pass rush from the interior of the line, mostly because they ran a 3-4 scheme. But when the 4-3 look last season produced no better than average quarterback pressure, hurries and sacks, something had to be done.
Meder, Danny Shelton (traded to New England earlier in the year), Nassib and Nate Orchard and Caleb Brantley (trimmed in the big purge Saturday) lacked the kind of push toward the quarterback desired by Dorsey and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
That’s why Odenigbo, picked up from Minnesota waiver list, and Davis, plucked off the Baltimore list, are now members of the Browns. Both most likely will become situational players depending on down and distance, while Larry Ogunjobi and Trevon Coley will be counted on to control the ground game.
Davis is a 6-5, 320-pound load, while Odenigbo checks in at 6-3, 275. Both are specialists adept at getting up close and personal with opposing quarterbacks. They will join Devaroe Lawrence, acquired from New Orleans for a late-round pick Saturday, in the semi-revamped position.
Nassib, a marginal defensive end who checked in with 5½ sacks in his two seasons with the Browns, was a hard worker whose production never seemed to match the effort he put forth. Meder was nothing more than a run stopper.
Vallejo, Tavierre Thomas and Neary, who will replace Reiter on the roster, probably won’t have the immediate impact as the others. And their tenure on the roster is subject to the waiver whims of their general manager, who is always scouring the wire.
Pending any other moves Dorsey plans on making between now and Sunday’s season opener at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the roster breaks down like this:
Twenty-two returnees from last season; 31 new faces, including eight of the nine draft choices; 11 rookies, 12 players in their second season and seven more in their third campaign. In other words, nearly 57% of the roster has relatively little National Football League experience.
Other interesting roster facts: The Browns drafted 42 players over the last five seasons. Only 13 are left and that includes eight from this year’s class. During Sashi Brown’s tenure as the boss man (2016-17), the club made 24 selections. Only 10 are left. Duke Johnson Jr. is the lone survivor from the 12-player 2015 class and Joel Bitonio and Christian Kirksey are the only two left from the six-member 2014 class.
One can only imagine where the Browns would be today with only moderately intelligent drafting.