2022 was always expected to be a season where the Browns were forced to be conservative on offense while quarterback Deshaun Watson served his 11-game suspension. That placed high expectations on the team’s defense, but the unit has not performed well enough to date.
Cleveland has been subpar regarding both total and scoring defense, owing in no small part to underwhelming play along the defensive interior. The Browns are allowing an average of 135 rushing yards per game, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. That has invited plenty of scrutiny for the team’s defensive tackles, a group including the likes of Jordan Elliott, Perrion Winfrey, Taven Bryan and Tommy Togiai.
Given the lack of individual development on the part of those players, and their collective performance this season, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com writes that the Browns will likely have no choice but to try and bolster the position this offseason. Doing so in the draft will be made more difficult given the assets the team parted ways with to acquire Watson, of course, and they are currently projected to be over the cap in 2023. In a more encouraging development, Winfrey is now “in good standing” with the organization, per Cabot. The fourth-round rookie had faced internal discipline for an unspecified incident in September, and has since made five tackles in six games.
Here are some other d-line notes from around the NFL:
- The Eagles have been busy recently along their defensive front, signing veterans Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh in consecutive days. Part of the reason for those moves was the injury suffered by promising first-round rookie Jordan Davis, of course, but the NFC leaders were thinned at the position in a another way. Marlon Tuipulotu – who was placed on IR to make room on the roster for Joseph – will likely miss the remainder of the season, as detailed by Josh Tolentino and Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The 2021 sixth-rounder suffered a meniscus tear against the Commanders in Week 10 and will require surgery. The USC product had taken on a larger role with Davis sidelined, racking up a total of 16 tackles and one sack this season.
- Like the Browns, the Bears could stand to improve in the middle of their defense. Chicago currently ranks 29th in rushing yards allowed (143 yards per game), and has had little in the pass-rush department from the interior. As a result, the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs predicts both a sizeable free agent addition and a high draft pick each aimed at rebuilding the d-line this offseason. After several cost-cutting moves made this year, the Bears are projected to have over $100MM in cap space in 2023, and seven selections in the first five rounds of the upcoming draft. That could leave general manager Ryan Poles with plenty of opportunities to boost his squad’s defensive front as they look to move into the next phase of their rebuild.