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Browns Training Camp Battle: Defensive Tackle Snaps

  • Justin Melo
  • July 28, 2023
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The Cleveland Browns received atrocious results from their interior defensive linemen in 2022. General manager Andrew Berry completely revamped the position in the offseason. The likes of Dalvin Tomlinson and Siaki Ika could find themselves in a head-to-head battle.

The Browns were dreadful up the middle last season. They allowed a 25th-ranked 135.0 rushing yards per contest. Berry responded to their season-long struggles by signing Tomlinson to a four-year contract worth $57 million and then doubled down on run-stuffers by drafting Ika with the No. 98 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

Cleveland’s opponents are incentivized to run the football against them because it prevents Myles Garrett from receiving opportunities to rush the quarterback on obvious passing downs. Za’Darius Smith and Ogbo Okoronkwo were added to compliment Garrett. A new defensive coordinator has plenty to work with.

Sweeping changes are coming to the scheme and alignments. The Browns fired defensive coordinator Joe Woods and replaced him with the critically acclaimed Jim Schwartz. Schwartz prefers his defense to utilize four down linemen. The idea is to pressure the quarterback without relying on sending extra defenders. With Garrett and Smith flanking the defense, priority No. 1 is for Schwartz to identify who is going to improve this bottom-ranking run defense.

Tomlinson’s lofty price tag indicates he’ll be the starter with Ika rotating in behind him. The Browns also have designs on affording Ika more pass-rushing opportunities than he received at Baylor, per comments made by Berry and Schwartz on the official team website. Even with more pass-rushing snaps on the horizon, the Browns are unlikely to deploy many packages that place both Tomlinson and Ika on the field simultaneously.

There could be another battle that will take place at the 3-tech position. Jordan Elliott led the Browns in snaps at the position last season with 703 (64.55%). The results were fairly disappointing, with Elliott only accounting for 2.0 sacks. Elliott earned a pass-rushing grade of 59.0 from Pro Football Focus, which wasn’t effective enough to negate his appalling run defense. Elliott restructured his contract earlier this offseason.

The Browns signed a pair of reclamation projects to add depth and competition. Maurice Hurst is a former fifth-round selection who has played 41 combined snaps over the past two seasons. Trysten Hill is a former second-rounder that earned the bust label with the Dallas Cowboys. Hill is on his third team in two campaigns, so he’ll need to showcase more than occasional flashes to make Cleveland’s 53-man roster.

Schwartz’s arrival should help Cleveland immediately receive an increased amount of production from their front four. A slew of much-needed acquisitions have been added to the mix. Tomlinson and Ika will clog the middle, but questions still loom about the overall potential of the 3-tech spot. Competition for snaps will be fierce throughout training camp and the preseason.

Written By

Justin Melo