From the jump, allow me to set the record straight.
Myles Garrett is the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year. Not Trevon Diggs, Garrett. Diggs’ ball production has been outstanding, but his game is eerily similar to that of Marcus Peters and DeAngelo Hall from prior seasons, and in no sense of the word have offenses attempted to work away from No. 7 through nine games due to his mirroring prowess. Now that that’s over with, let’s dive into Garrett’s 2021 campaign, where he’s amassed a league-leading 12.0 sacks through nine games, three more than the closest defenders (Markus Golden/Harold Landry/Matt Judon).
On pace to break Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22.5 sacks set back in 2001, Garrett has been an unstoppable force each and every week for the 5-4 Cleveland Browns. One of the most impressively framed athletes in all of sports, Garrett’s consistency since he entered the league as the top overall selection in 2017 has been two-fold with his continued progression and development of an elite edge-rush skill set.
Rushing off the edge in today’s NFL is a tall task, let alone producing consistently gaudy sack totals year in and year out. While offensive lines continue to deploy stronger and quicker tackles as the years progress, the onus on the league’s premier sack specialists to continue to diversify their game from a countering power and speed perspective remains paramount in consideration to annual success. Despite offenses attempts to chip, double, triple-team, chop, or scheme the play away from Garrett, he’s continued to wreak havoc in backfields, leaving behind a congested quarterback graveyard in his wake.
A 6-foot-4 blend of herculean strength and feathery feet, a dive into Garrett’s skeleton of traits presents the NFL’s most dominant defender through nine weeks.
A man of his stature shouldn’t move the way Garrett does off the edge. Primarily aligned as a 9-tech defensive end, Garrett’s explosiveness and seemingly relentless motor presents a nightmare to block for a full 60 minutes.
Whether you think you can double him by sliding over the guard, or triple him using a tight end, as you can see, it just doesn’t work against the 2020 All-Pro. With at least half a sack in every game but one so far this fall, Garrett’s knack for understanding blocking concepts, situational awareness, and ability to fire off with his lower half with extreme quickness presents a downhill defender where bodies in the way have become nothing more than empty mass.
The ability to counter at the NFL level is an art Garrett has mastered in his first handful of seasons. Very rarely will you see him record multiple sacks with the same move. Whether he works from the outside-in transferring power to speed or vice versa, Garrett’s understanding that you can rarely win by showing your hand on consecutive rush attempts has presented a litany of moves for linemen to attempt to counter when placed in the fire opposite No. 95.
For example, you won’t win to the outside unless you’ve first tested the inside, and when attempting to bull rush, which in itself is a counter move, Garrett’s aptness to trick linemen into anchoring before plowing through them, or speeding their feet up only to rip inside on a delayed move, is an unfeasible matchup to win.
With double-digit sack totals in every season since his debut campaign, the scary thing is that Garrett is only getting better. Still just 25 years old, Garrett’s status among football’s best is no longer good enough. While the addition of Jadeveon Clowney could have a small effect on his output this season, Garrett is his own individual beast. An edge talent with, at times, superhuman-like ability to wrangle down opposing signal-callers, Garrett’s regularity at the top of the sack-leader totem pole has become a commonality the last few seasons.
With upcoming matchups against pocket-dwelling quarterbacks in Mac Jones (New England Patriots) and Jared Goff (Detroit Lions), Garrett’s numbers won’t come screeching to a halt anytime soon. The leader of a defense that’s relatively underperformed as a unit, the pressure on Garrett to continue his dominance will remain parallel with the overall success of the Browns moving forward.