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Tale of the Tape: Browns defensive line offers a stiff test for Broncos

The Broncos have faced some pretty tough defensive lines over the season. Yet, this Cleveland Browns defensive line might be their toughest opponent yet.

Cleveland Browns v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos have faced some pretty tough defensive lines over the season, from the Giants to start to the Ravens and Steelers in back-to-back weeks. Yet, this Cleveland Browns defensive line might be their toughest opponent yet.

The starting group for the Browns consists of Myles Garrett, Malik Jackson, Malik McDowell, and Jadaveon Clowney. Combined, these four have tallied up 88 total pressures and 12.5 sacks so far this season. This group have an adjusted sack rate of 8.5%, good for third in the NFL.

We all know just how good Myles Garrett is. He’s the best edge rusher in the NFL, pairing freakish athleticism and length with excellent pad level, motor, and a wide variety of pass-rush moves. He leads the NFL in sacks with eight in just six games. At the rate he’s playing at, Garrett is on pace to tie or potentially even break Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5.

Garrett is second in win rate among all edge rushers in the NFL and by himself has 35 total pressures. Cleveland isn’t afraid to mix where he lines up at, so both Garett Bolles and Bobby Massie will have to be ready to face this phenom.

On the other side is the other freak athlete in Jadaveon Clowney. Clowney, despite not putting up the same massive totals that Myles Garrett is, has been incredibly disruptive in his own right. He’s amassed 25 total pressures and three sacks of his own, one being an incredible chasedown sack of Kyler Murray last week. He’s been causing havoc all over the place, and ranks 10th in win rate among all edge rushers. These two are the most explosive pass-rushing duo in the NFL, and they’ll be tough to stop for Denver’s tackles.

The interior of the Browns line of Malik McDowell and Malik Jackson are plenty disruptive in their own rights. Malik McDowell has been a resurgent wonder inside and has been an excellent run defender for the Browns, clogging up lanes and taking up double-teams-which frees up the other guys. He’s not been quite the pass-rusher that Malik Jackson has been, but he plays a different role. McDowell’s posted 10 total pressures and a single sack on the season. Jackson wins primarily with quickness off the snap as the team’s primary interior rusher. The sack numbers haven’t popped off for Jackson yet with just half a sack, but he does sit at third on the team in pressures with 18.

However, what makes the Cleveland defensive line the toughest test for Denver so far in my opinion is the depth. Their rotational players of Jordan Elliott, Takkarist McKinley, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Sheldon Day, and Andrew Billings make this unit even tougher to stop, as each of them have flashed effective or even quality play, most notably Elliott and McKinley.

McKinley sits in fourth place on the team with 13 pressures and with 1.5 sacks. Most notably, he’s sitting comfortably with a 16.4% win rate and 11,2% pressure rate. As third rushers go, McKinley’s performing an admirable job with his athleticism and motor.

Jordan Elliott hasn’t seen a ton of action, but his abilities as a pass-rusher have flashed consistently when he’s been on the field. His length and power will present a problem for the guards in Denver when he’s on the field.

I’ve highlighted a significant amount of reps against the pass, but make no mistake, this Browns defensive line is lethal against the run. They’re sitting at sixth in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards and they are third in defensive DVOA against the run. The Browns have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, and have allowed Yards per Carry of 3.2, 2.9, 3.5, 4.9, and 3.9 this season (the Broncos average 4.6 offensively). It’s going to be tough sledding to move the ball against this elite unit.