One of the hottest topics thus far throughout the offseason and OTA’s is the current defensive tackle situation. Looking at it from the outside, I can understand how people think that there seems to be cause for concern in this category. There’s an argument to be made that the overall interior defensive line play in 2021 was disastrous in certain situations and that the Browns didn’t seem to add enough help this offseason.
This might be the overall sentiment of Browns fans, but there’s much more to why Andrew Berry and the Cleveland defensive staff are going about it differently.
Berry has shown that even though Cleveland still has one of the highest salary cap amounts left in the league, there are only a few positions that he’s willing to substantially pay for, and defensive tackle isn’t one of them. He believes that scheme and athleticism are more valuable against the run than traditional “bulk” in the middle.
I’m going to provide a quick preview on each player that Cleveland currently has at defensive tackle, besides the two UDFA’s Glen Logan and Roderick Perry II. I don’t see a world where they can make the gameday roster. I’m also going to give you their current depth chart projection based on the information that I’ve gathered throughout OTA’s so far.
Taven Bryan – 6’4″, 291 lbs.
Taven Bryan was acquired this offseason via free agency. The former first-round pick with Jacksonville “flamed out” as a Jaguar due to his overall inconsistency. There were times when he definitely flashed elite potential, but he was never really able to sustain that style of play for whatever reason.
Both Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods and Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin are extremely high on Bryan’s future as a Brown. They firmly believe in him as an athlete and think that they can help mold him into the player that he has the potential to be, which is an above-average interior defensive lineman in this league.
2022 Depth Projection: Starting 3-Technique Defensive Tackle.
Jordan Elliott – 6’4″, 310 lbs.
The Cleveland Browns were on cloud 9 when they were able to draft Jordan Elliott in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was a dominant player in college but hasn’t really panned out in the NFL as of yet. Elliott has shown excellent play in some situations, but he’s been below average overall throughout his first two seasons.
It appears that he has entered this offseason determined to change as a player. He has switched positions, and will now be playing Nose Tackle or the 1-Technique defensive tackle spot. He has put on much-needed weight and is up to roughly 310 lbs. This much-needed bulk and strength should help him, anchor, at the point of attack, while still being able to use his above-average level of quickness and twitch to his advantage. Joe Woods has spoken very highly about Elliott recently, in regards to the way that he’s performed throughout OTA’s as well. He and Taven Bryan are currently working as the starters at defensive tackle.
2022 Depth Projection: Starting 1-Technique Defensive Tackle.
Perrion Winfrey – 6’4″, 290 lbs.
Cleveland’s fourth-round draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft has the potential to be an absolute steal. Studying him at Oklahoma, he didn’t have the best tape in the world. I truly believe that one of the main reasons that he fell so far down in the draft is because of this simple fact. He was extremely inconsistent throughout his collegiate career, but I believe that this was due to the fact that he wasn’t being used correctly. Oklahoma had him twisting and stunting on a large percentage of snaps, which hindered his ability to blow up plays in the backfield consistently. Winfrey is the type of player that needs to “pin his ears back” and be able to shoot gaps using his explosion and get-off.
Winfrey should see heavy playing time in 2022 as a situational or sub-package interior pass rusher at the 3-Technique. He’s probably going to be the first defensive tackle off the bench in Cleveland’s interior defensive line rotation as of right now.
2022 Depth Projection: Rotational 3-Technique Defensive Tackle.
Tommy Togiai – 6’2″, 296 lbs.
Togiai went through a lot of growing pains as a rookie in 2021. He did fairly well against the run due to his power but needs to be more consistent as a pass rusher. He’s a unique specimen in terms of his traits as a player. He has the body type of a 3-Technique, but the strength and anchor of a 1-Technique or Nose Tackle. Though the Browns might be able to use him at both interior positions due to his versatility, his best position in the NFL might be at Nose Tackle.
He has the type of brute strength to anchor at the point of attack, which would mean that he most likely ends up rotating in behind Jordan Elliott at 1-Technique. He’s also another player with loads of potential, so there’s a world where he ends up playing a lot more than people might expect.
2022 Depth Projection: Rotational 1-Technique Defensive Tackle. He should also be a sub-package nose tackle in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Sheldon Day – 6’1″, 293 lbs.
Day was signed to the Browns’ practice squad in December of 2020 and has been an extremely consistent player thus far throughout his time here. He does everything fairly well and is a valuable depth piece on the interior defensive line. Cleveland re-signed him because they value his ability to rotate in and contribute quality snaps at 3-Technique.
Though he was a solid player on Joe Woods’ defense in 2021, there’s a chance that he’s only on the field for 15-20% of snaps per game depending on the development of Togiai. The only question mark here is the number of defensive tackles that Cleveland will carry into the regular season. If they decide to keep five, then Day is safe. If it’s four then he probably has the most potential to be cut.
2022 Depth Projection: Sub-Package 3-Technique Defensive Tackle.
There’s about a 90% chance that Cleveland enters the 2022 regular season with these guys at defensive tackle. The Browns are confident in these players’ overall development and improvement, especially Elliott and Togiai. It also helps that Joe Woods loves to use his “Ferrari” or “Cheetah” package, which puts the team’s four best pass rushers on the defensive line regardless of position. I believe that we will see various lineups or combinations of Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Alex Wright, Taven Bryan, or possibly even Chase Winovich all on the field at the same time. That’s going to be scary for the opposition.
If there’s one thing that we all know about Andrew Berry, it’s that he’s incredibly hard to predict. He might still bring in a cheap veteran like Linval Joseph, but that’s highly unlikely. It’s going to be an interesting summer watching this defensive tackle group, but Cleveland fans should be excited about the potential here.