Can you believe it? Training camp is just two weeks away. It's been another busy offseason for the Browns, and we'll start seeing how all the new and refined pieces come together very soon. We're preparing for it all with a comprehensive preview of every position on the roster, starting with the defensive line.
The Defensive Line
View the top photos of four-time Pro Bowl DE Myles Garrett from the 2022 season
What we know: Both defensive line position groups will look significantly different than a year ago, and there's a long list of reasons to believe they'll be a much stronger unit as a result. Garrett and Smith have the potential to be the most destructive edge rusher tandem in the league, while Dalvin Tomlinson will provide a much-needed lift in the interior that should help the Browns perform much stronger against the run. There's plenty of youth in the group, too — Ika, Winfrey, McGuire, Wright and Thomas are all first- or second-year players — and the Browns should have opportunities for all of them to show growth. Keep an eye on Okoronkwo, too, as he could be a top breakout candidate after showing explosiveness with five sacks in the second half of last season in Houston.
What we don't know: We saw Smith take reps as an interior lineman during minicamp while Okoronkwo played on the outside. That package will allow the Browns to deploy their best possible D-Line grouping, but how much will they actually use that package during the regular season? Hill and Hurst are also two intriguing offseason signings to follow throughout training camp — both players were highly touted once they were drafted but haven't produced much due to injuries, and the Browns are giving them another chance to ignite their careers.
The X-Factor: Smith. For the Browns' defensive line to be as dominant as it needs to be, Smith needs to continue playing at the same Pro Bowl level he's been at with double-digit sacks in three of the last four seasons. He's shown no signs of slowing down after another Pro Bowl year last season.
The biggest number: 44. That's how many sacks the Browns would've had last season if you add Smith's 10 sacks to the total, which would've propelled the Browns from 27th in the league in sacks to 10th. That shows just how much of a difference he could make to a group that could see everyone's sack numbers improve under the rush-friendly schemes of new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who has a long track record of producing top-performing defensive lines.
Says it all: "We'll find our personality in training camp, and that's part of what training camp is going to be for us, is finding out what our best combinations are and how guys play off of each other. That's going to be important. I think that we do have some flexibility there, particularly a guy like Za'Darius Smith, who's a very effective inside rusher. We have some young, developing players here that have had good offseasons so far. Alex Wright and Jordan Elliott, both of them have stood out in a lot of stuff and I think both of them can contribute inside. But flexibility is important for matchups in the game. Moving guys around a little bit. You'll probably see a little bit more moving guys around, maybe, than they've done in the past, but it's all about just creating good matchups and finding out what the guys can do the best." - Jim Schwartz on how he feels about the upgraded pass rush
How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 10