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Browns Breakdowns: What Perrion Winfrey brings at DT

Winfrey’s never-quit style of play led to a huge senior season at Oklahoma — and one of the hardest-hitting sacks in all of college football in 2021


One play from Perrion Winfrey's senior season at Oklahoma stands out more than any other.

It happened last November, when the Sooners were playing Iowa State. The Cyclones faced third-and-12, and Winfrey, then a rising defensive tackle prospect in the middle of his best college season, was looking to capitalize on a definite passing play and add another tally to his sack total.

When the ball was snapped, Winfrey was nowhere near the quarterback, Brock Purdy. That's because Purdy ran to his right as soon as he took the shotgun snap. Winfrey initially sprung to Purdy's left and was further pushed away from him by the center, which put Winfrey on a completely different half of the field by the time Purdy stopped his run to evade another blocker.

Winfrey, however, didn't stop chasing him. Purdy began running the opposite direction — back toward Winfrey — and had no idea a 6-foot-4, 290-pound defender was sprinting his way and looking to make a hit that would cause the 82,000 fans at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium to erupt.

Winfrey arrived, lowered his shoulder into the top of Purdy's chest and delivered one of the hardest hits of college football in 2021 for the sack.

In Cleveland, Browns defensive line coach Chris Kiffin took notice.

"He's an absolute heat-seeking missile here," Kiffin said in a “Browns Breakdowns” video.

"That's what you love to see. When you see this on tape, you store that in your mind."

Kiffin remembered that play as the Browns locked in Winfrey as a fourth-round draft selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. They were surprised to see him unselected after a senior season that ended with 5.5 sacks and MVP honors at the Reese's Senior Bowl, which led many draft analysts to rank him as a top five defensive tackle prospect in the draft class.

He played like a bull in a china shop, and the Browns believed he was too good to pass up that late in the draft.

"This is a guy we're really excited about," Kiffin said. "We're excited to get him in the building. He's a scheme fit for us … He's going to bring a lot of energy, and he wants to work when he's out there."

When it comes to energy, Winfrey is a flame that simply won't burn out. That was apparent the moment he jumped on his introductory media call, when he paced around his house in Illinois and passionately told reporters about his eagerness to join the Browns. It continued as he ran drills throughout the spring and impressed coaches even more with his work ethic and motor in practice.

Like all other Day 2 draft picks, though, Winfrey will need time to develop. He'll have a chance to carve a big role early in the season in training camp and has raw tools that could help him become a starting player at some point in the future, but he still has room to grow both physically and mentally before his game takes off.

Kiffin, though, knows he's ready to absorb all information given to him with an unmatched level of eagerness.

"For him, this is a dream come true," Kiffin said. "He's excited to be here, and the dude loves to work. He wants to get better and he's out here competing everyday, trying to push the guys and learn the system."

Winfrey's never-quit style of play and raw power stood out most to the Browns. He doesn't give up on plays — as the Purdy sack showed — even if the play doesn't start perfectly for him. When they do, he usually is able to have his way against a blocker for the entirety of a play. He can push them to the backfield, or use his impressive speed to move around them.

"He has the ability to get vertical and get upfield at 300 pounds," Kiffin said. "That's what we're looking for upfront … It starts with his intrinsic motivation to get the job done and stay after it until he does."

Kiffin believes Winfrey will thrive particularly in Cleveland because the Browns heavily use a three-man technique, which calls for the interior defensive linemen lining up between the offensive guards and tackles. The technique usually allows for more one-on-one rushes against guards and allows for a defensive line to be more efficient in pass rushing.

That positioning should help maximize Winfrey's agile but still powerful skill set. He's one of the lighter defensive tackles on the roster, but the Browns believe he'll still have the strength to work around blockers as he develops.

"Historically, the three-technique gets more one-on-one rushes," Kiffin said. "We want that guy to be able to win at a high rate, and he's going to be able to do that."

They also know he'll be ready to make plays no matter where he's at on the field.

His massive hit against Purdy made that obvious. The Browns believe more of those plays will come from Winfrey in Cleveland, and they're eager to see how he can translate that endless energy into consistent success at the NFL level.

"You can't coach (that play)," Kiffin said. "That just shows up on tape — his relentless effort — and we're glad to have him in the building."

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