“Explosive” isn’t usually the term used to describe run defense, but the Browns definitely fit that description. Through four games they’re first in Tackle For Loss Value by a considerable margin. It’s been overclouded Cleveland’s despicably bad offense, but the Browns are quietly building one of the best young defensive lines in the game. Danny Shelton, Larry Ogunjobi, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Caleb Brantley have really turned up the heat over the past few weeks.
Oh, and their first overall pick Myles Garrett has yet to play a regular season snap for them. Per Pro Football Reference, here are the Browns’ leaders in tackles for loss over the first month of the season.
One of the biggest surprises for the Browns has to be the emergence of third round pick Larry Ogunjobi. He’s been an extremely disruptive B-gap penetrator. His ability to time the snap count paired with his explosive first step has made life difficult for opposing offensive guards.
Ogunjobi has also performed well asked to line up over the center as well. The NFL has slowly been gravitating towards smaller, quicker nose tackles to attack the increased use of horizontal runs in on offense. Watch Ogunjobi knife through to the backfield after establishing position in the backside A gap.
Emmanuel Ogbah has also established himself as a dominant run defender in the early portion of the season. He’s been absolutely tremendous at setting the edge (haaaaaaa that’s our site!) and causing disruption at defensive end.
Ogbah repeatedly took a baseball bat to the Bengals offensive line. He viciously sets the edge against Jake Fisher before helping Derrick Kindred finish the tackle in the backfield for a substantial loss.
Speaking of Derrick Kindred, he leads the Browns in tackles for loss with seven on the year so far. Part of this is his role in Gregg Williams’ aggressive defensive style, but he’s been a remarkably good finisher when he gets into the backfield.
Danny Shelton has come into his own as well in his third season in the league. He’s been the stout nose guard they drafted him to be in the first round back in 2015. He’ll likely never be an explosive pass rusher, but his work as a run defender and creating for others has been a huge plus.
Here’s a radar chart detailing the Browns’ run defense ranks so far. The (FO) tag represents stats coming from Football Outsiders, a very good site that you should all read.
This is a unit that should only get better as they get Myles Garrett back from injury this week. Go Browns!