If his performance in the season-opening tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday is any indication, Myles Garrett is going to have a monster season. And it appears he doesn’t need much help.
The big defensive end introduced himself to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on numerous occasions in the 21-21 standoff despite little and often times no help from the rest of his defensive linemates.
Emmanuel Ogbah was almost a cipher for the afternoon at left defensive end, producing exactly one assisted tackle to the cause while Garrett provided relentless pressure all afternoon.
If he wasn’t drawing holding penalties, he was either strip-sacking Roethlisberger, checking out the big quarterback’s dental work or causing havoc within the Steelers’ offensive line with his tireless work ethic.
He had half of the club’s four sacks, half of the four hits on Big Ben and found himself in Roethlisberger’s area code for a extensive portion of the afternoon. Oh and five of his six tackles were solos
He consistently gave Steelers left offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva fits on pass plays, often beating the 6-9, 320-pounder with his strength, quickness and speed.
Whenever the Steelers chose to attack the Browns’ flanks, it was almost always their right side, or where Ogbah was stationed. Running back James Conner picked up a lot of his 135 yards on cutbacks to the strong side.
Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who has improved dramatically on his rookie season, also checked in with a strong game, notching a sack and seven tackles, three solo. But that’s to be expected when you play next to Garrett.
What defensive coordinator Gregg Williams needs to do is identify someone who can bolster Garrett ‘s contributions on the opposite side of the line who can produce to the point where it gains the attention of the opposition. Ogbah is not that player.
It never reached the point Sunday where the Steelers chose to double Garrett, but you can bet future opponents will attempt to scheme to shut him down, or at least render him ineffective with double teams if his performance against the Steelers is any indication.
This defense can become very special if Garrett is allowed to be who the Browns thought he would be when they drafted him No 1 last year. As long as he stays healthy, there is no telling how good he can be.
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Denzel Ward is certain to long remember his professional football debut. The offense couldn’t capitalize on his two interceptions, but it sure seemed to vindicate his selection with the fourth pick in the last draft.
Yes, Antonio Brown burned him on one of the Steelers’ three touchdowns. Then again, who hasn’t been burned at least once by the perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver?
And granted, it’s only one game, but the kid from Nordonia and Ohio State sure looked as though he belonged. His first pick, in particular, was very heady and extremely athletic.
He read Roethlisberger’s eyes as he scrambled on the Steelers’ third series of the game shortly after reaching the red zone. The big quarterback spotted Brown in the open at the Cleveland 10. Ward saw it right away, dropped his coverage, changed directions and lunged for the football, catching it just before it hit the ground.
That is something you can’t teach. That’s instinct and intelligence combining to make a play, something the Cleveland defense had trouble with last season. His second pick was a result of a deflection by Pittsburgh tight end Jesse James.
The Browns had only seven interceptions last season. With three picks already, it’s only a matter of time before that embarrassing statistic is passed this season.
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If the first game and the performance of the special teams during the exhibition season is any indication, it will be a long season for those units.
It seems as though every time the Browns force the opposition to punt, there will be almost routinely a flag for holding, an illegal block in the back or some other infraction on the returns. It happened four times against the Steelers.
It hamstrings the offense, often times shoving them back dangerously close to the goal line. Starting drives inside the 20 can wear down an offense.
Now factor in how poorly the Browns cover punts. They experienced similar problems in the exhibitions and do not appear to have resolved them. Ryan Switzer of the Steelers returned five punts for 56 yards, his 22-yarder creating a short field to set up the Steelers’ third touchdown.
Then there was the punt by Britton Colquitt in overtime that skipped off the back of his up man in punt formation who allowed so much penetration, it forced Colquitt to adjust. The punt traveled only 29 yards, creating a short field at the Pittsburgh 45, but placekicker Chris Boswell cooperated by missing a 42-yard field goal try.
One more don’t-ever-do-that-again for special teams coordinator Amos Jones’ units: When an opposing punt is short, listen to your return man and clear the area if you are blocking. Get as far away from the ball as you can.
Nick Chubb did not on a fourth-quarter punt and the ball appeared to graze his helmet. The Steelers recovered the ball, but the ruling on the field suggested otherwise and awarded the ball to the Browns
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin immediately threw the red challenge flag and the replay appeared to show the ball slightly moving after glancing off Chubb’s helmet. But rookie referee Shawn Smith upheld the call on the field, probably because there was no conclusive visual evidence to overturn it.
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The offensive line was very offensive against the Steelers. Four false start penalties, seven sacks allowed and a generally poor performance against a pretty good Steelers front seven.
They were the main reason Taylor had to scramble as often as he did. That and Taylor’s inability to spot open receivers quickly and get rid of the ball.
Steelers outside linebacker T. J. Watt had a field day against them with four sacks, 11 tackles (eight solo), not to mention blocking the field goal attempt by Zane Gonzalez in the waning seconds of overtime to preserve the tie.
It is going to take time for this unit to operate in a cohesive manner with new faces at both tackle positions. Desmond Harrison did okay at left tackle (being kind here for the rookie) considering it was his pro football debut. As a unit, though, there is plenty of room for improvement.
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Finally . . . Penalties, penalties, penalties . . . 11 more for 87 yards for those that were accepted, many of them called in crucial situations. The Browns are killing themselves, a malady that carried over from last season and continued in the exhibition season. It indicates a lack of discipline and needs to be corrected pronto. . . . Technically, it has been 625 days (Christmas Eve day in 2016) since the Browns lasted tasted victory, a three-point verdict over the then San Diego Chargers. . . . How did rookie offensive lineman Austin Corbett slip all the way to the inactive list on game day? The first of the team’s two second-round draft picks played a huge number of snaps in the exhibition season at left guard only to see coach Hue Jackson bench him in in the run-up to the opener in favor of Harrison, who bumped Joel Bitonio back to left guard, . . . What in the world lowered Duke Johnson Jr. to virtual spectator after his terrific 2017 season? The versatile running back appears to be getting lost in the shuffle, touching the ball only six times for 25 yards. He had one pass reception although targeted six times. What gives? . . . Britton Colquitt’s 12 punts in one game is four shy of the National Football League record set by Leo Araguz of Oakland 20 years ago. But his 522 total yards eclipses Chris Gardocki’s previous club mark of 517 in 2000. . . . Question of the week: Why in the world was Josh Gordon targeted only three times against the Steelers? . . . In retrospect, it does seem a little odd to praise the Browns’ defense when that defense surrendered 472 total yards to the Steelers, but there is no tie without that defense in the second half.