The 2023 Browns bottom line begins with the Defensive Line

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This Labor Day weekend is the last weekend without NFL football in 2023. This brings anticipation for September 10th when the Cleveland Browns are set to open their season at home against the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. In 2022 the Cleveland Browns defensive line was a glaring weakness for the team. In 2023 the defensive line of the Browns can be considered a formidable strength.
GM Andrew Berry saw the 2022 product on the field and made the revamping of the defensive line a priority. The free agent signings of DT Dalvin Thomlinson, DT Shelby Harris, DT Maurice Hurst, and DE Ogbo Okoronkwo were only the beginning. The trade for DE Za’Darius Smith from the Minnesota Vikings was not the final move either. The 2023 NFL Draft Picks DT Siaki Ika and DE Isaiah McGuire were added as well. We as fans got a glimpse of the 2023 Defensive Line’s potential in the preseason.
In the 2023 Cleveland Browns preseason most of the starters on the defensive line played. We saw a very good unit. Two safeties were recorded in two consecutive games. Consistent quarterback pressure and clogging of run gaps were evident. Many critics and skeptics have said that it is the preseason and not all starting offensive linemen played against this defensive line. The counterargument to that is DE Myles Garret didn’t play a down in this year’s preseason either. He is arguably one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. But the noticeable improvement isn’t just from personnel. It is also from the coaching.
After the conclusion of the 2022 season Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods was dismissed. His replacement was the well-respected Jim Schwartz. Coach Schwartz brought an aggressive scheme along with a simplification of assignments. The early improvement and overall attitude of the defense was noticeable in the 2023 preseason. Jim Schwartz’s defenses have a history of bringing out the best play in defensive linemen. I for one am excited to see them in live action next weekend.
In 2022 Pro Football Focus has ranked DT Shelby Harris 19th and DT Dalvin Thomlinson 15th for interior defensive linemen. They also ranked DE Za’Darius Smith 17th and DE Myles Garret 1st as edge defenders. That is 4 starting defensive linemen ranked in the top 20 of Pro Football Focus. No other starting defensive line in the NFL has that level of personnel.
The 2022 Cleveland Browns run defense was abysmal. They were ranked 25th in the league and averaged 135 rushing yards a game. The team’s 2022 sack total was 34, and Myles Garret recorded 16 of those sacks. There was very little defensive line production outside of him.
I believe the Browns’ Front Office and Coaching Staff felt that addressing Defensive Line production would lead to more wins in 2023. They appeared to have made the correct moves to bolster the run defense and quarterback pressure. With a much-improved defensive line, linebackers will be free to make plays. And with an already talented secondary, the 2023 Cleveland Browns Defense could be ranked in the top 10 of the NFL. After many seasons of having high hopes dashed by reality, Cleveland Browns fans need to see it on the field. We will get that opportunity next Sunday at 1 pm.

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