The 2020 Cleveland Browns have a chance to have their best defense in years.
The underachieving unit has not finished in the top 10 in NFL defensive yards per game allowed in 7 years.
But with assets added in free agency and the draft, 2020 can be different in Believeland.
Let’s explore the potential of the 2020 Browns defense.
The Browns defense is led by defensive end Myles Garrett, who was just named the number one disruptor in the league in 2019 by NFL.com writer Nick Shook.
Myles Garrett is what makes the Browns defense work.
Shook shared this stat from 2019:
“The Browns had a 32.9 percent pressure rate with Garrett on the field in 2019; without him, that figure dropped to 21.5 percent.”
If Garrett can stay on the field in 2019, a 33% pressure rate will be one of the best in the league.
Garrett had 10 sacks in 10 games in 2019.
A sack per game would elevate Garrett, and possibly the entire Browns defense, to elite levels.
But Garrett is not the lone playmaker on the Browns D.
2018 first-round pick Denzel Ward has become a true lockdown cornerback in just two years with the Browns.
During an awesome rookie season, Denzel Ward finished with the league’s 2nd-highest coverage grade in man coverage. pic.twitter.com/hTJrnZtC6L
— PFF (@PFF) April 16, 2019
Ward has allowed one touchdown pass in 414 coverage snaps.
You simply can’t throw on him in the red zone.
His poise in pressure situations and ability to wrestle the ball away from receivers makes Ward one of league’s top up-and-coming corners.
Veterans You Can Count On
The next group on the Browns defense you can rely on is a key group of veterans.
Defensive Tackle Sheldon Richardson brings more than 100 games of experience to anchor the Browns against the run.
Edge rushers on the other side of Garrett figure to be Olivier Vernon, who has 32 QB hits in his last 21 games and Adrian Clayborn, who had 4 sacks for the Falcons last season in a limited pass-rushing specialist role.
And safety Karl Joseph was recently added on a one-year free-agent deal from the Las Vegas Raiders.
Karl Joseph: Game Ender#LACvsOAK | #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/P5uCmtAzGb
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 8, 2019
Joseph is expected to play as a strong safety, sometimes in the box as a 3rd linebacker.
PFF gave Joseph an 82.2 grade in the box in 2019, one of the highest grades in the league.
If these four veterans can produce on the field and mentor the young Browns defense off of it, each player will provide tremendous value to the 2020 Browns.
LSU To Cleveland Pipeline
Greedy Williams was a second-round pick out of LSU for the Browns in 2019.
He started 12 games with mixed results but his physicality and size make him the ideal complement to Ward at CB.
An exciting addition to the Browns defense is another LSU product found in the second-round, safety Grant Delpit.
Delpit had a huge role on the 2019 LSU Tigers National Championship team and was expected to go much higher than the 44th overall selection where the Browns chose him.
New #Browns Safety Grant Delpit forced incompletions at a higher rate than any other top safety in the NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/KSFYXr85qo
— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) April 25, 2020
Delpit is expected to start from Day One at free safety.
His coverage skills are why the Browns drafted him.
Covering tight ends, wide receivers and running backs figure to be no issue for Delpit and his coverage skills should elevate the Browns secondary into one of the best in the AFC.
And finally, the Browns went back to the LSU well in the third-round of the 2020 Draft.
Inside linebacker Jacob Phillips is a reliable tackler and leader.
Phillips led LSU with 113 tackles in 2019 and will be counted on to be a tackling machine in 2020.
The Future Is Even Brighter
With the most promising mix of young playmakers and veteran leaders in years, the Browns defense is on the rise.
The 2013 unit was the last to finish in the top 10 in yards allowed per game.
If that doesn’t sound like long ago, consider that unit was led by Joe Haden, Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard.
But the Browns have given up an average of 368 yards per game in the six seasons since 2013.
They took a step forward in 2019, improving to 361 yards allowed per game.
And the new additions should make them even better in 2020.
But the best news might be the amount of youth on this Browns defense.
Which should make the defenses in 2021 and 2022 even better.
Headed in the right direction for sure. I think we see 2 maybe 3 revelations emerge this season.