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Off-Season Position Analysis

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Browns 2020 position preview: Analyzing the defensive tackles

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 a position that added some much-needed, key depth this offseason.

The Defensive Tackles

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

What we know: The Browns return their starters, Richardson and Ogunjobi, after a season in which they were the one source of health and consistency on a defense that lacked both. They were solid in their roles during the first half of the season, when the entire defensive line was healthy and effective, but struggled like everyone else when the unit was decimated by injuries and suspensions. Cleveland's offseason maneuvers focused on padding the depth inside this room, and that was achieved with the signing of a veteran run-stopper in Billings and the third-round selection of a promising young talent in Elliott, who steadily improved throughout a college career that started in Texas and ended at Missouri. Both likely will be called upon at a position that relies heavily on a strong rotation that allows the starters to catch their breath and save enough energy for the final stretches of games.

What we don't know: Just how much potential does this part of the defensive line have if everything is clicking the way it should be? We saw them truly affect games in wins against the Jets and Ravens early in the season and a dominant performance against the Steelers later in the year, but there just wasn't enough of a sample size before everything went haywire during the final part of the season. Another question: How will Billings, a big, tough run-stopper who filled a starting role with the Bengals, fit within the scheme? One last one: How much will the Browns count on Elliott, who has the kind of tools teams covet at the position but is understandably light on experience?

X-Factor: Ekuale/Ankou - We're picking two in this spot for the first time because both of these players could make a serious push to have a role on this year's team. Ekuale has been with the Browns for two seasons now and has worked his way up from the practice squad in 2018 to the active roster in 2019. After flashing plenty of promise in the preseason, Ekuale saw his debut season cut short by an injury. Ankou essentially replaced Ekuale on the roster and wound up playing a significant number of snaps because of the aforementioned injuries and suspensions that forced Cleveland to dig deep into its depth — and even briefly move Richardson to defensive end. Ankou has appeared in 20 games over the past three seasons, a solid amount of experience that shouldn't be overlooked when projecting what this room could look like at the start of the season.

The biggest number: 1 - That's how many games combined Ogunjobi and Richardson have missed over the past two seasons. Richardson has appeared in 15 or more games in six of his seven NFL seasons while Ogunjobi has missed just three in his first three seasons.

Says it all: "I think we've got a great rotation set up. In this day and age you've got to be able to rotate guys through games, especially when offenses want to go tempo. Even when they're not going tempo, the beat in the trenches for 60-70 snaps per game is too much. You've got to have two-deep at both inside positions." — Browns DL coach Chris Kiffin

How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 5

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