For Myles Garrett, it’s easier to find differences than similarities between how he feels now and how he felt as a rookie at this point of the season.
For starters, Garrett is healthy and refreshed after a bye week and another game in which the Browns managed his snaps. Last year, Garrett was dogged by a high ankle sprain he suffered just before the start of the season. He didn’t fully recover until the offseason.
Then there’s the rest of the team. Garrett was on a defense last year that hung with teams as long as they could before ultimately breaking. This year, Cleveland’s defense has set the tone by forcing turnovers and maximizing the injection of talent it received in the offseason. Playing with leads like the Browns have had over the past two games has allowed the defense to pin its ears back and really unload on the opposition.
Garrett sat down with ClevelandBrowns.com after Friday’s practice to assess how his second season has gone from a number of different perspectives.
CB.com: What’s it been like inside the locker room after picking up two straight wins and how do you expect it to carry over to Sunday?
Garrett: It’s been positive all around. Everybody is confident going into this next ballgame. We feel like we can beat anybody.
CB.com: You mentioned last week how the overall vibe is just different compared to last year. How does that impact how the overall team plays?
Garrett: The vibe last year was just hanging with people and keeping it close and hopefully pull a win out. Now we have the confidence and the mindset we can go out and beat anybody in convincing fashion.
CB.com: The defense has forced turnovers all season, but the offense wasn’t able to convert many of them into points. Now, the offense is clicking on all cylinders. What kind of effect can that have on the defense?
Garrett: It’s what we’ve been waiting for. It’s the time where we get that two- or three-score lead or even be up by 10 knowing they have our back anytime we get the ball to them. We as rushers can have a little bit extra time because we know they have to make a big play, especially in the second half when time is getting cut short.
CB.com: Were you surprised how much some of those lengthy games early in the season took a toll on you and the defense as a whole before the bye?
Garrett: It definitely started chopping at your legs and affected how much energy you can bring in the week. You’ve definitely got to work on your recovery by the end of the week, especially on Sunday, so you can go out and play the same as you were when you were fresh. That bye week does wonders having the week to yourself to recover mentally and physically. It helps.
CB.com: I know during the offseason you said you wanted to condition yourself to be able to play every single snap at a high level. After going through the stretch you did, can anything really prepare you for that kind of grind?
Garrett: I’ll just have to push myself a little bit more. It was tough to get through but I feel like I’m back at 100 percent and physically prepared to go out there and go for 85 or 90 snaps again. Hopefully I don’t have to but I’ll take all the opportunities I can get to get on the field and make big plays.
CB.com: How much has the emergence of Anthony Zettel and consistent play of Chris Smith helped make it easier to get you off the field for a couple of plays at a time?
Garrett: It definitely helps. Those guys are coming in and filling a role and doing a great job at it. They rush the passer, play the run, make the stops in the backfield like Zettel has done. Chris on the other side has let me and Og (Emmanuel Ogbah) get a breather and get back on the field when those crucial times come.
CB.com: You’ve been playing next to Larry Ogunjobi all season. How good can he be in this defense for years to come?
Garrett: Really good. I think him lined up on the center or even at three-technique and having an option to go two ways, whether it’s inside the guard or outside the guard. I think he’s one of the best.
CB.com: Looking at the Texans on Sunday, J.J. Watt has been one of the best pass rushers of the last decade. What part of his game do you admire the most?
Garrett: His moves and his motor. He’s always going after the ball, never stops, never gives up on a play. He always has a variety of moves. He’ll use a specific set depending on who he’s going up against. You know he’s been working it all week knowing his matchup and knowing what he needs to do to get to the passer.
CB.com: You mentioned the motor. Is that something that can be taught or is it just a natural thing you either have or you don’t?
Garrett: It’s very hard to get a motor this late in your career. Either you have it or you don’t. Sometimes it will change in high school or college and something will click and you’ll become a different player. But this time in your career if you don’t have a motor? You probably don’t have a motor. Guys like him, you’re born with it.
CB.com: How much of a leader for the team has Baker Mayfield been during this stretch?
Garrett: He leads by his action. He doesn’t do too much talking outside of those white stripes. Other than that, he’s been regular Bake. He’s walking around friendly, nice to be around other than when he’s talking about his team on Saturday. Good guy.
CB.com: What would three straight wins mean for this team?
Garrett: Hopefully I’m around for longer streaks than that with this ball club. I think it would mean a lot to us, but after three we need four, after four we need five and we need to cap the season off with a big streak to give us a little bit of hope to go further this season.