Throughout the first six weeks of the 2022 season, the Cleveland Browns’ defense has allowed opponents to rush for 798 yards. To make matters worse, 538 of those yards have come within the last three weeks. Though the run defense improved in week 6 vs. the Patriots, something has to be done. This absence of run-stopping ability is due to a lack of consistent discipline, effort, and fundamental execution from the defensive tackle room. One thing that cannot be understated enough though is the simple fact that Cleveland lacks overall size on the interior defensive line.
Current PFF Grades for the Position.
Jordan Elliott – 33.2
Taven Bryan – 50.7
Tommy Togiai – 29.9
Perrion Winfrey – 43.0
Heading into the 2022 season it was no secret that Cleveland needed to bulk up at defensive tackle. They did a good job of grooming Jordan Elliott in terms of his size and body type, but his play on the field has been disappointing at 1-technique. Taven Bryan shows flashes from time to time but has been extremely inconsistent against the run. One play he’ll knife through a double team or shoot through a gap to make the stop, and the next he’ll get blown back three to four yards off the ball. Tommy Togiai has shown that he’s got brute strength, but that’s all he’s shown so far. He’s completely unaware of his surroundings on the football field in terms of where the ball is.
Perrion Winfrey has also shown some great flashes from time to time when he plays, but he’s really only going to be a one-trick-pony in the NFL, which is a situational 3-technique pass rusher. He just simply doesn’t have the anchoring ability or brute strength needed to be stout at the point of attack, which happens to be the theme of this entire defensive tackle group. Cleveland is trying to use players who are almost exclusively these kinds of pass-rushing types, to anchor inside against double teams. Taven Bryan and Perrion Winfrey aren’t going to be able to stand their ground against a double team by big AFC North guards and centers on a consistent basis.
This clip is a perfect example of what’s been happening on the interior defensive line so far for Cleveland.
It’s well known throughout the league that Andrew Berry & Co. doesn’t believe in the defensive tackle position, or even the idea that stopping the run is integral to winning in “today’s NFL”. To be fair, there are actually quite a few GM’s and analysts who agree with this ideology.
The Browns have had one of the worst run defenses in the league for two seasons now in terms opposing teams’ yards per carry allowance. Though you could say it hasn’t outright caused them to lose games, it’s definitely caused them to be put in extremely disadvantageous positions in some crucial spots.
The current problem also goes beyond scheme. No matter what type of scheme Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods utilizes, it’s not going to be able to negate the lack of sheer size inside. They need to acquire heavy, stout, 1-technique type players who weigh at least 310 lbs. – 330 lbs. These guys are able to “two-gap” and provide the type of size to naturally plug up run lanes and keep blockers away from the linebackers. Cleveland recently signed free agent defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, and that’s a great start to the process of adding some “beef” to the defensive line. Davison is 310+ lbs. and has experience playing both 1-technique in a 4-3 defense and nose tackle in a 3-4. He is exactly the type of player that the Browns need inside. He’s currently on the practice squad, but I expect him to be promoted to the 53-man roster before week 7 against the Ravens.
Andrew Berry has taken a step in the right direction by signing Davison, so let’s see what else this Cleveland Browns front office does to try and remedy the situation.