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Browns 2021 position preview: Analyzing the D-Line

The countdown 'til training camp is on.

In two weeks, the Browns will be back in Berea for five weeks of practices, meetings and preparations for the 2021 season — one that's filled with hype following several key additions to the defense and little changes to an offense that thrived in 2020.

We're examining each position on the roster as Day 1 of camp nears and continuing with a position that will feature at least three new starters and one pivotal leader.

The Defensive Line

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

What we know:Ever since Myles Garrett was drafted No. 1 overall in 2017, the defensive line has been one of the top strengths in Cleveland. Now, the question is how much better it can get with the additions of Jadeveon Clowney, the only other defensive end to be drafted first overall in the last decade, Takkarist McKinley and other new players capable of cracking the rotation at both D-End positions. Garrett and Clowney could become one of the most devastating pass rush duos in the NFL, but they'll still need contributions from the interior — arguably the most open position group on the whole roster — to maximize their Pro Bowl talents. That competition started once Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson, the two DT starters from last season, left the Browns this offseason.

What we don't know:A lot of questions will be answered in this group this season: Who will start at defensive tackle? Who will be first in line for rotational reps behind Garrett and Clowney? How often will Garrett, Clowney and McKinley be on the field all at once? Will any of the young players in the group emerge as heavy contributors? How much can Clowney help Garrett, and vice versa? OK, now take a breath … Some of these questions will be answered in training camp, and some of them won't be answered until we're in the thick of the season. This group has a lot of proven veterans and a lot of promising pieces that could grow into bigger roles as early as Week 1, so it'll be up to defensive line coach Chris Kiffin and defensive coordinator Joe Woods to evaluate how to create a consistent package of pain for opposing quarterbacks every Sunday.

The X-Factor: Clowney. He picked Cleveland in his free agency search not only because he believed the Browns were one of the teams best shaped to win in 2021, but also because he thinks he can return to the same level of play that made him a Pro Bowler with the Texans for three years from 2016-2018. He's dealt with injuries in the seasons since, but if Clowney comes close to touching double-digit sacks like he did when he was healthy for full seasons, that likely means everyone on the D-Line — and the entire defense, really — is wreaking havoc.

The biggest number: 24.5. That's how many sacks Clowney totaled from 2016-2018, which amounts to just over .5 sacks per game. That's been the best stretch of his career so far, and he did a chunk of it alongside All-Pro DE J.J. Watt. Now, Clowney has an All-Pro player on the other side of the line again in Garrett.

Says it all: "When guys are trying to win and everybody is looking for the win, it brings out the best in everybody on the team. That is what we try to do here is bring out the best in every player. I think the staff is trying to do that. Winning is definitely going to do that. When you start winning, everybody is happy and everybody wants to go out there and make plays and ball. I am looking forward to that. Hopefully, we can get on that winning train and everybody just wants to go out there, dominate and make plays." - Clowney

How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 8 (four DTs, four DEs)

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