Through three games, including one glorious Baker Mayfield-led victory against the Jets to end a winless streak of 19 games, LB Joe Schobert leads the Cleveland Browns in tackles. It’s normal for a linebacker to lead an NFL team in tackles. In fact, the leading tacklers for a team are usually a linebacker or two and safety, but certainly not a defensive tackle. Behind Schobert’s team-leading 23 tackles is second year defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi who has 18.
Is that impressive? It sure is but I understand tackle statistic are not really indicative of how well a player is performing. But in the case of Ogunjobi, it does provide evidence to the type of energy he’s playing with to be involved with so many finishes.
The guys up front are tone-setters for the defense. The DT’s doing their job makes it possible for the second level to get downhill and fill against the run. While Ogunjobi is doing well to maintain his run fits so that Schobert and Co. can finish, he’s also getting off blocks and making plays himself.
A third-round pick from Charlotte in 2017, Ogunjobi is emerging as an interior playmaker. After serving as a rotational player as a rookie last season, Ogunjobi is starting in year two and is flashing the upside that can make him a building block up front for general manager John Dorsey moving forward.
Today’s NFL offenses features a blend of inside/outside zone and man blocking concepts which creates a need for defensive lineman that have stout anchors but can also move laterally. The days of Ted Washington and Tony Siragusa eating space in the middle of the defense are behind us.
In many ways, Ogunjobi is today’s prototype. At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, Ogunjobi is a thickly built man but carries almost no bad weight. That 305 pounds is distributed proportionately throughout his frame. Clocking a 4.97 40-yard dash, 32-inch vertical jump and 116-inch broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine, Ogunjobi is an explosive dude for his size.
All of those traits work together to make him a sound run defender and this rep is an example of how that happens. Ogunjobi quickly attacks and leverages his gap, doesn’t allow the center to cross his face, gets his hands on the centers chest plate to control the rep, works laterally and finishes. The Browns front seven as a whole fit the run perfectly here and Ogunjobi made the tackle for loss.
So you think running at Ogunjobi is a viable option? Not so much. He handles himself well when tasked with anchoring and holding his ground.
Now Ogunjobi gives a step on this rep because his pad level rises to locate the football but look at how he recovers and controls the rep from that point on. Because he’s able to fit his hands, Ogunjobi quickly shucks the center and closes the gap while holding the ball carrier to a minimal gain. I love how Ogunjobi re-anchors and uses his hands to battle back and finish. Plenty of other DTs would have been washed out of the gap and the RB rips off a big gain but Ogunjobi wasn’t having it.
Interior pressure on the QB is undefeated in the NFL. If a defense can get into the face of the passer then bad things usually happen for the offense. With three sacks in the first three games of the season, Ogunjobi is providing Cleveland that all-so-important interior pass rush. Considering his size and athletic profile, there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to ascend.
In week two against the Saints, Ogunjobi gave two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger all sorts of problems. On his first of two sacks against New Orleans, Ogunjobi hit Unger with a club-rip combo to soften the rush angle before perfectly complementing his hand technique with footwork to beat the block. The sack resulted in an 11-yard loss for the Saints, forcing a 44-yard field goal that was ultimately missed.
Ogunjobi’s second sack won’t impress you with technique. He tries the same club-rip combo that worked earlier but this time Unger moves his feet and stays square to Ogunjobi off the snap. Ogunjobi needed to be much more compact and not so elongated with the move for it to work a second time. With that said, Ogunjobi doesn’t stop battling once his initial surge is stoned. He counters to a stab that turns into a bull rush and Ogunjobi gets home with relentless effort.
Not every sack in the NFL is a defensive lineman hitting a picturesque pass rush move and beating a block cleanly. A lot of times it’s about effort and stringing moves together to get home.
This was a 3rd-and-1 situation that pushed the Saints out of field goal range and forced a punt.
Everything hasn’t been perfect for Ogunjobi, but he is developing technically and his physical traits are outstanding. Part of a young front seven that features Myles Garrett, Genard Avery, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey, the Browns have the makings of a dominant group as they all develop.
Ogunjobi is blossoming into a playmaking force on the interior of the Browns defense.
With Baker Mayfield at QB, a potent group of offensive weapons, a sound offensive line, an emerging front seven and a rebuilt secondary, much brighter days are ahead for the Browns.