Training camp is finally right around the corner.
In just over one week, the Browns will be back in Cleveland to begin preparations for 2022. We're preparing for their return with a comprehensive breakdown of each position on the roster, moving next to a group that'll hold two returning Pro Bowl players on the edge and two new starters in the middle.
What we know: With Clowney set to return for a second year in Cleveland, not many teams will have a better pass rush duo than what the Browns have with him and Garrett. They combined for 25 sacks last year, the highest total a Browns pass-rush duo had achieved since Reggie Camp (14) and Clay Matthews (12) compiled 26 in 1984, and are definitely capable of snagging a higher number this season. It was noteworthy last year when Clowney ended the season with 5.5 sacks in his last three games. The defense was playing their best football of the year at that point partly due to how well Clowney clicked, and if he can keep that momentum going into 2022, he could break double-digit sacks in a season for the first time in his career.
What we don't know: Who starts on the interior? It's anyone's guess right now, although it's worth noting that Bryan and Elliott took first-team snaps during the spring. The Browns could shuffle other guys in those spots as camp progresses, though, since most of the group is largely composed of players who have never been given the opportunity to be on the first team yet. Bryan, a four-year veteran and 2018 first-round pick, is the most experienced guy, but it'll be intriguing to see if Elliott, a 2020 third-round pick, Togiai, a 2021 fourth-round pick, or Winfrey, a 2022 fourth-round pick, can leave any big impressions in camp. On the edge, the Browns could also explore rotational options with Winovich and Wright, a rookie third-rounder, and use packages with more than two defensive ends to bring chaos to the backfield.
The X-Factor: Garrett, of course. That's how it's been for the last five years. When he's at the top of his game, the rest of the defense normally follows, and last year provided even more proof — he set a franchise-record 16 sacks, which helped the group rank fifth in the league in total defense. Garrett draws so much attention every week and forces opponents to be perfect in their game plan to keep the pocket clean. When he has a big game, the rest of the defense normally follows suit.
The biggest number: 4. That's how many sacks Garrett needs to surpass Clay Matthews (62) as the franchise sack leader. He snagged the single-game record (4.5) and single-season record in 2021 and could surpass Matthews rather quickly in 2022.
Says it all: "They should definitely improve and take another step. They've been working together and need to learn to work with (the defensive tackles). Those things all need to happen, and we'll get to training camp and take that next step. We've got the right pieces together, and I think that was part of Jadeveon's reasoning for coming back — being in the same system again for the second year in a row." - Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin on how much better Garrett and Clowney can be in their second year together
How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 3
Check out photos of three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro DE Myles Garrett