Elite pass rushers are often put on a pedestal as essential cornerstones of a great defense.
So much so that in the last ten years, the top three picks in each draft class have included 15 defensive linemen or offensive tackles- the men used to protect against those pass rushers.
The rest of those 15 picks were quarterbacks, with the occasional running back or linebacker thrown in.
Obviously, the league values pass rushing.
The Browns, looking to find a cornerstone of their own, chose Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett with the first pick in the 2017 draft.
Despite their speculative drafting history, Garrett looks to be a success for the Browns.
Through 33 NFL games, Garrett has 29.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and nearly 100 tackles, solo and assisted. Last year, Garrett’s was second in the league, he was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl.
Before this season started he proclaimed that it was his goal to be named Defensive Player of the Year, and that’s a perfectly appropriate goal for the former number 1 overall pick in the draft. Nearly a sack per game? Come on, the guy has the numbers and the pedigree. He should be challenging for that award every year for the next 10 years.
Let’s look at his numbers so far this season. Through 6 games, Garrett has 9 sacks, including 3 multi-sack games, and 1 forced fumble. Those sack numbers currently put Garrett tied for first with Tampa’s Shaquil Barrett. Good for Garrett, he looks like he might be on track for that DPOY.
However, what is the point of racking up all those numbers if they aren’t helping your defense? As the Browns head into their bye week with a 2-4 record, their defense currently sits at 23rd in total yards given up and have given up the 8th most points per game in the league.
A bright spot, that could be attributed to Garrett’s prolific pass rushing is where the Browns rank in passing defense. The Browns are conceding just 219 yards through the air per game, all the while starting two backup cornerbacks.
Maybe the team has a great pass defense, but it could also be that teams are having such an easy time running the ball that they don’t need to throw it. The Browns are giving up the fourth-most rushing yards per game in the league, at 154 yards per contest.
On Sunday we saw the hollow nature of sack stats play out right in front of our eyes. Garrett sacked Russell Wilson twice on the way to the Browns blowing a 20-6 lead against the Seahawks. Damarious Russell had the Browns third sack.
But it didn’t matter. Wilson, who is currently on the league’s longest streak of passes without an interception with 207, threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns. This racked up a passer rating in the game of 117.6!
(Baker Mayfield, on the other hand, was sacked 0 times and threw 3 interceptions on his way to a passer rating of 54.9)
This tells us that despite 3 sacks in the game, the Browns pass rush was essentially useless. They didn’t force any turnovers or errors from Wilson, and when the game was on the line, where were they?
Since 2016, the @Browns are 3-16-1 when the defense registers three sacks or more — by far the worst mark in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/g8dcfygaVa
— Adam Thompson (@_Adam_Thompson_) October 14, 2019
Late in the fourth quarter, the Browns had Seattle right where they wanted. A shanked Seattle punt from the back of their endzone led to a routine touchdown drive that put the Browns back in the lead.
All the Browns defense had to do was get a stop and they would have “righted the ship”, as the saying goes. A win against a top NFC opponent and an even 3-3 record. What a way to go into the bye week, right?
Instead, the Seahawks went on a 9 play, 79-yard game-winning touchdown drive that took five and a half minutes.
The defense? Toothless. Cut through like a hot knife through butter.
So, Myles Garrett is putting up monster numbers, and the Browns have their cornerstone pass rusher. The rest of the defense? More like a crumbling foundation.
Unless the Browns can find a way to get themselves back into contention in the division, Garrett will have to wait until next year to pick up his trophy. They won’t be giving the Defensive Player of the Year award to someone sitting at home come playoff time.
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