Cleveland — The Cleveland Browns won two games in five days, 19-16 over the Buffalo Bills and 21-7 over division rival Pittsburgh. However, coming out of the win against the Steelers, the Browns will be without Myles Garrett for the foreseeable future.
Garrett was suspended by the NFL for his role in the melee that ensued after he tackled Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph after a pass.
Even though the Browns won the game and put forth a dominating effort, it is hard to feel as if the Browns won that game.
The impact of losing Myles Garrett
Anthony Joki: Obviously losing Myles is a huge loss for the Browns defense. Myles has recorded 10 sacks this season while the rest of the Browns defensive line has accumulated only 11 sacks: Larry Ogunjobi – 5, Olivier Vernon – 3 and Chad Thomas – 3.
Myles has done a lot more than just sacked the quarterback. Schematically, Myles consistently takes on double teams allowing other defensive linemen to have one-on-one matchups. He also allows the linebackers to flow freely through the gaps.
The impact of losing Myles will have consequences across the defense, not just in his sack totals.
Jack McCurry: Anytime you lose a dominant player, it’s a loss. While many tried to make the case that Myles Garrett was overrated because he didn’t make enough impact plays and while that might have been true at times, his loss will be noticeable immediately.
Garrett is one of the best overall talents in the NFL and the Browns will have to fight on without him and unfortunately there isn’t another player like him on the defensive side of the ball that can pick up his production.
How do the Browns try to replace Myles Garrett?
AJ: The easy answer to this is you can not replace someone like Garrett. But to answer the question, the Browns acquired Vernon in the offseason to be a dominant force on the opposite side of Myles. Has Vernon has the “numbers” that everyone looks for? No. But he has still played very well up until being sidelined for the last two games with an injury.
It is hard to predict how the season will go but the move to trade Genard Avery just before the deadline looks worse and worse. He would at least be able to get some snaps in a rotation.
Here is where Chad Thomas can really prove himself. Thomas, the Browns second round selection in 2018, has gotten extended playing time with Vernon being out and now with Myles out, Thomas will continue to get the majority of snaps.
JM: You also have Chris Smith who has been quiet throughout the season and obviously we all know he’s been dealing with a tragic loss and having to take care of his newborn daughter but he’s going to get more of an opportunity now to help this defense. The team also signed Bryan Cox last week who has some length but lacks athleticism as a pass rusher.
I wouldn’t be shocked if you see Sione Takitaki lined up at times in packages as a defensive end. He’s a bit undersized which was part of the reason Steve Wilks didn’t utilize Genard Avery but at this point, everything should be on the table to try and ride the ship down the stretch with six games left.
AJ: You bring up a very interesting idea. The Browns have run primarily a 4-2-5 defense this season. If the Browns want to manage snaps for a depleted defensive line, Wilks could implement a 3-3-5 in certain situations.
The Browns will also be without Larry Ogunjobi for one game. In that case, you would be looking at Vernon-Richardson-Thomas as your defensive linemen, Takitaki-Wilson-Schobert as your linebackers and five defensive backs.
Any way you look at it, Wilks needs to put the 11 best players on the field. And it will be a hard choice with how depleted the defense is.
JM: No doubt, it will be very interesting to see how they go about this without Garrett and potentially no Vernon. You also have to take into account that Morgan Burnett is gone for the season and that’s unfortunate because he played his best game on Thursday against Pittsburgh.
John Dorsey has hopefully scoured the free agent market the last few days and has come up with capable options to fill the void on the defensive line as well as the safety position because the Browns are really doing some patch work now as we come down the stretch with the playoffs still realistically in sight.
Defense in pieces, playoff chances still alive
AJ: The Browns went into Thursday night with it being a must win game to keep their playoff chances alive. They succeeded in doing so but with the losses of Garrett likely for the season, Ogunjobi for one game and Morgan Burnett for the season with an Achilles tear, the Browns defense has found itself in pieces.
They have now lost two starters to season ending injuries and one starter to a season ending suspension. We knew going into the season that the Browns defense still had some holes, but now those holes have become craters. Because the trade deadline has passed, there is no way the Browns will be able to acquire any players. The only players they can sign are those on practice squads or claim players on the waiver wire that have been released by teams.
At some point, the star studded Browns offense is going to have to win football games.
That time is now.
JM: Yeah and they’ll have to do it on a consistent basis. They got off to a hot start Thursday night but then stalled out and couldn’t get into a rhythm but that was on Kitchens because his calls were head scratching at times.
The talent is definitely there and David Njoku appears to be returning to at least practice this week so that’s another boost the offense needs but if they cant stay on a consistent rhythm from both coaching and production, we’ll never know how great they can be.
As for the defense, they will have to fill some holes this week with Garrett, Ogunjobi and Burnett out. Like I mentioned above, I’m sure Dorsey and the front office and have been lining things up to try and get some help here.
At the safety position, you have to wonder if they just call up JT Hassel from the practice squad. He’s been with the team all season, knows the system and playbook and is acclimated with his teammates. That would likely be the best option as well as continuing to give guys like Juston Burris and Sheldrick Redwine more reps.
On the defensive front, you try and find the best pass rusher available whether it’s on a practice squad or scouring the waiver wire. We all know no one can replace Garrett and I think we make do with Richardson, Lawrence and Ankou at the defensive tackle position for one game.
The Browns playoff chances are still hanging by a thread but with six games to go, the Browns are only two games out of the playoff picture. Their so called “easy schedule” has gotten much tougher with the defensive loss they have suffered and now every game is a “must win”.