The Browns defensive line will be missing one of its top playmakers when it takes the field Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
DT Larry Ogunjobi was ruled out from the Week 5 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts with an abdomen injury suffered last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Ogunjobi, a fourth-year veteran who has 12 career sacks and 10 tackles through four games this season, is a key cog in a defensive line that has helped the Browns generate some of their biggest plays of 2020.
Ogunjobi will be missed Sunday, but the D-line has already proven it can weather injuries this season. The group is one of the deepest D-Line units in the league, and the Browns are well-equipped to handle the load if any of their starters are unable to go.
"He's a hell of a run defender," Browns defensive end Myles Garrett said of Ogunjobi in a Zoom call Friday with local reporters. "We'll miss him, but we have guys who are going to try to fill in his role the best they can and do what they do best."
One of the candidates to fill in for Ogunjobi is rookie DT Jordan Elliott. He's been a part of the rotation each week thus far and has recorded three tackles in 113 snaps, 31 of which came Sunday in a game when Ogunjobi exited early.
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Indianapolis Colts
Elliott, a third-round pick, has impressed coaches since training camp, when he flashed his quick feet that made him one of the top defensive line prospects of the draft. He's only 22, however, and has plenty of room to grow, but he might get one of his best opportunities to showcase his young talents Sunday.
"We're counting on him," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He's pretty responsible. He follows through on study, and he makes sure he is in the right spot and right place. We just need him to go out there, and then whatever is asked of him, he has to do his job."
Vincent Taylor, who was signed by the Browns before Week 1, is the other DT. He's made five tackles, one QB hit and a fumble recovery and seen a steady increase in playing time since the season opener. When Taylor has filled in, the defensive line hasn't lost a step, either.
Elliott and Taylor both will be surrounded by talent when they're on the field — and that's what has made the Browns D-Line so solid. Garrett, Sheldon Richardson and DEs Adrian Clayborn and Porter Gustin, who have both filled in for Olivier Vernon as he recovers from an abdomen injury, have teamed up to deliver game-changing plays in all three of the Browns' wins during their current three-game win streak.
When one player thrives, the rest of the D-Line has found ways to benefit, whether it comes from creating sacks or by stopping the run, and injuries haven't prevented them from missing a beat. The defensive line has totaled nine sacks this season and is a big reason why Cleveland is fifth-best in the league at stopping the run, which will be a key task to defeating the Colts in Week 5.
Indianapolis has recorded 131 carries, fourth-most in the league, but has only averaged 3.5 yards per carry, which ranks last. The Browns are certainly capable of keeping that number low if they continue to perform at the same level they've shown through the first quarter of the season.
"They're a tough team, and we're a tough team," Garrett said, "and we just have to duke it out and see who executes better."
Regardless of which combination of players the Browns have at the line of scrimmage, they'll have plenty of talent capable of wreaking havoc in the backfield. They deserve credit for Cleveland's strong start to the season, which could become the best start the franchise has had since 1994 if they win Sunday, and there's plenty of reasons to believe they'll continue to thrive even without the presence of one of their top players.
"We're just taking it one week at a time," Garrett said.