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Off-Season Position Analysis

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Browns 2020 position preview: Analyzing the defensive ends

The virtual work is complete and training camp will be here sooner than we know it.

From now until then, we're going to devote some time to the different position groups that dot the Browns' roster. There's been plenty of change since the Browns last took the field, and we're examining all of it with an eye toward the 2020 season.

We're continuing with the position that was absolutely gutted by the end of last season but is full of the same talent, and more, that makes it one of the most dangerous on the entire team.

The Defensive Ends

Check out photos of the defensive ends the Browns will be bringing into training camp

What we know: The Browns have one of the best pass rushers in the NFL entering the prime years of his career back in the fold. That's the good news and trumps all else with this group, which labored during Garrett's absence and was compounded by the six games Vernon missed with a knee injury. With them together, the Browns had a fairly consistent pass rush that seemed to thrive off momentum during the first half of the season. Without them, the Browns struggled to get to the quarterback or seal the edge against the run, and the entire defense suffered as a result. That's in the past, though, and the Browns enter 2020 with a clean slate and, more importantly, appreciation for the group it returns. The addition of Clayborn gives the Browns a big boost of experience and a bona fide weapon in third-down pass rushing situations. Thomas really improved in his second season with the team and seemed to benefit from all of the snaps he picked up during the second half of the year.

What we don't know: What kind of potential do the Browns have at defensive end if both Garrett and Vernon can stay on the field for the entire season? Though Vernon wasn't piling up a bunch of sacks during the first half of the season, he was an effective defensive end who only made the people around him better. Garrett was averaging a sack per game before he was suspended for the final six weeks of 2019. There's some serious potential there if both can stay on the field from start to finish; we just want to see it. The same goes for how Clayborn will fit within the defensive line. He'll give the Browns another body to throw at opposing offensive lines and, perhaps most importantly, will provide a versatile option who can also line up on the inside. Again, we just need to see it, and that's why we're looking forward to training camp so much.

X-Factor: Vernon - The Pro Bowl veteran seemed to really just get going when his 2019 season was derailed by a knee injury. With an elite pass rusher on the other side of the line, Vernon was poised to benefit in a big way in his first season with the Browns, though his 26 tackles and 3.5 sacks don't fully illustrate his value to the defensive line. When healthy, Vernon has proven capable of compiling double-digit sacks, and that occurred when there wasn't a player of Garrett's caliber in his meeting rooms. Vernon shouldn't be counted out when assessing the potential game-wreckers on this defense. 

The biggest number: 14 - That's the team record for sacks in a season, a mark that's been held by Reggie Camp since 1984. It appeared to be in some grave danger at the midway point of 2019, but Garrett, who had 13.5 sacks in 2018, ultimately missed the final six games and finished with 10 on the season. Garrett has much bigger goals than breaking the team record, but it still stands as a milestone he'll look to conquer in 2020.

Says it all: "I think Myles has the right mindset in terms of wanting to be MVP and all of that, but we just need him to be the best payer for us that he can be, and whatever happens, happens. Right now, I think he is in a good place. I think as a young player in this league, you go through a lot of different things so I definitely think he is going to learn and grow from the situation that happened last year … He is focused on getting better. He is focused on being a good teammate. He has been in the meetings. He is trying to step up and take more of a leadership role. I definitely think he is moving in the right direction and has the right mindset." — defensive coordinator Joe Woods

How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 4

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