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Myles Garrett says Browns defense can be ‘as dominant as we want to be’; here’s why he’s right: Mary Kay Cabot

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 7/28/2022 Mary Kay Cabot, cleveland.com
Cleveland Browns defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney talk at day one of Cleveland Browns training camp. © Joshua Gunter/cleveland.com/TNS Cleveland Browns defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney talk at day one of Cleveland Browns training camp.

BEREA, Ohio — Myles Garrett, who lifts big, dunks big, box jumps big, and talks big, is making some bold proclamations about the Browns’ defense again this season.

How dominant can the D be?

“As dominant as we want to be,” Garrett said Wednesday. “Last time I heard, they can’t win if they don’t score points.”

Garrett’s confidence in the defense is the major reason his lofty expectations this season won’t change regardless of how long Deshaun Watson is suspended.

“It has nothing to do with Jacoby (Brissett),” he said. “I believe in his ability, but I’m putting the pressure on us because I know what we have in store.

“I felt like that last year and I feel like that this year. We have a lot of talented guys all across the board and I feel like this is probably the most well-rounded we’ve been since I’ve been here. Just try to make the most of it and make plays all up and down the field and take the ball away.”

With so much uncertainty swirling around the offense and the length of Watson’s suspension, Garrett is setting the tone and taking care of business on his side of the ball.

“Yeah, it’s all going to be put on us,” he said. “So go out there and make the most of it, (it will) either crush you or makes diamonds.”

Garrett, who’s chased that elusive NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award and Super Bowl since he was drafted No. 1 in 2017, knows the defense can’t rest on its 2021 laurels, when it held opponents to 16 points or fewer on nine occasions and finished No. 5 in the NFL.

It’s a new season, new storylines and new star AFC quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. Nothing is given, certainly not a playoff berth.

“I mean, you take a little bit from last year, of course, you can’t just wipe it completely clean,” he said. “You have to play off the good and wash away the bad. I think the main thing last year is we have to work on consistency and that’s what we saw down the stretch. We were very consistent in our approaches and from drive to drive we weren’t having all these ups and downs, we were staying pretty consistent.”

As for himself, he did some things in the offseason to improve, but he’s not sharing those secrets.

“Offseason was so long ago I can’t remember,” he said coyly. “I don’t know what I did.”

In all seriousness, he took to heart the coaches’ challenge to be more consistent. His goals this year include “get better. Grow as a person, grow as an individual and as a teammate. Grow as a leader and help these guys to come along with me.

“I know that there is always more in the tank for myself but also for them and we have long way to go, but it’s the start of the process today and all throughout this preseason and training camp and I believe we have lot of potential that we can help mold and create something very big here.”

His personal expectations after setting the franchise sack record last year with 16?

“Get some more DPOY votes.”

No one dares argue with a guy who’s built like Hercules and squats 675 points with ease. But here are some reasons behind Garrett’s confidence.

1. Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney are back

Garrett described the two as the “best pass-rush duo in the NFL” and they certainly make a case. They combined for 25 sacks last season, including nine by Clowney. With these two screaming off the edge, quarterbacks quake in their cleats. This season, they should have more interior rush to further confound QBs.

“It’s necessary,” Garrett said. “When you see some of the best DEs or outside linebackers, it’s because their inside is getting a lot of pressures. Their inside linemen are causing the quarterback to either step back or not be able to step up. That’s when you see a lot of guys either beating the guy inside and like walking right into him, or pinning the edge at 5, 6 yards and the quarterback’s still standing right there.

“So knowing what he’s going to do, where he’s going to be at, he’s applying constant pressure, or knowing that they can’t run the ball up the middle because those two are holding it down, it’s a weight off my shoulders.”

2. The kids are growing up

There are at least three defenders who should take a big jump in their second season on the field: corner Greg Newsome II, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and safety Grant Delpit.

Newsome, who will spend some time in the slot, aims to add some takeaways to his repertoire. Owusu-Koramoah, after a rookie season marked by injuries, will have more on his plate. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods won’t hesitate to blitz him more and otherwise provide him with big-play opportunities.

Delpit, who had a solid finish to his first active season coming off 2020′s torn Achilles, is a player to watch.

Safety John Johnson III also has his sea legs this season, and Woods will better know how to best use him.

3. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods knows his personnel better

Woods will add some new wrinkles to the defense. There will be subtle differences in coverage and he’ll be more aggressive with blitzing and stunts. He’ll have good interior pressure from Perrion Winfrey and others, which will enable him to take more chances.

4. They’ll get more takeaways

The Browns finished 21st with only 19 takeaways, on 13 interceptions and six fumble recoveries. With all the talent on this defense, it’s not nearly enough. It’s not for a lack of trying. Woods’ D runs more takeaway drills than most, but it hasn’t translated to the field yet. Players such as Garrett and Ward should set the tone with more game-changing plays. If they can do so, the defense can be unstoppable.

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