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Browns offseason position analysis: Defensive line

With Super Bowl 50 in the rearview mirror and the NFL Scouting Combine just a few weeks away, will use the next couple of weeks to do exactly what Hue Jackson has done since he took over as head coach: analyze the roster

His analysis of Cleveland's roster remains ongoing and will play heavily into how the Browns tackle the free agent market and approach the 2016 NFL Draft. Our analysis will merely provide a snapshot of what's occurred and what could be on the horizon.

We're starting today with the defensive line and will knock out the rest of that side of the ball as the week unfolds.

The Raw Data

Danny Shelton - 16 games, 36 tackles

Desmond Bryant - 14 games, 33 tackles, six sacks, forced fumble

Jamie Meder - 16 games, 33 tackles, sack

Randy Starks - 15 games, 29 tackles, sack, fumble recovery

John Hughes III - 16 games, 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced fumble, fumble recovery

Xavier Cooper - 14 games, 19 tackles, 1.5 sacks

Others on the roster

Dylan Wynn - 12 weeks on the practice squad

The Rankings

Total defense - 379.2 yards per game - 27th in the NFL (10th in 2014)

Yards per rush attempt - 4.5 - 27th (32nd in 2014)

Rushing touchdowns - 11 - T-17th (T-20th in 2014)

Sacks - 29 - 28th (27th in 2014)

Contract talk

(According to, the following players contracts will expire at the start of the new league year in March)

• Meder

Who's in charge now?

Defensive line coach - Robert Nunn (29 years experience, 17 in NFL)

Assistant defensive line coach - Ken Delgado (31 years experience)

Quote to note

"Robert Nunn is one of the finest defensive line coaches in all of pro football. We have a relationship that extends back to our days with the Washington Redskins. He coached in Super Bowls with the New York Giants and has coached some tremendous players." - Hue Jackson

High point

The defensive line played a big role in Cleveland snapping its seven-game losing streak and collecting its final win of the season Dec. 14 against the San Francisco 49ers. Bryant had 1.5 sacks and Cooper chipped in a half-sack in a game that saw the Browns drop 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert nine times. The Browns also held the 49ers to 71 rushing yards on 17 carries in a game that was arguably the team's most complete of the season.

The Low Point

Just one week later, the Browns surrendered a season-worst 182 rushing yards to a Seattle team that was without its top two running backs and breaking in a handful of ball-carriers who joined the team earlier in the game week. Cleveland brought down Russell Wilson on two occasions but the mobile quarterback was able to find plenty of time on most of his throws and made more than enough plays to lead the Seahawks to a lopsided victory.

Surprise, Surprise

Heading into training camp, there was no certainty Meder would be a part of the Browns' 53-man roster in 2015. Meder not only proved worthy of a roster spot during an impressive August, but he also showed he could be counted upon every week during the grind of an NFL season. Meder and Shelton remained healthy and split time in the middle of Cleveland's defensive line throughout the entire year. Each player brought a different flavor to the position and found success in their own way.

Outlook for 2016

The Browns carry a good mix of youth (Shelton, Cooper, Meder), players in their prime (Bryant, Hughes III) and experienced veterans (Starks) into Jackson's first offseason as Browns head coach. The arrival of defensive coordinator Ray Horton indicates the Browns won't overhaul their 3-4 philosophy, and that will help maintain some stability in this group. Shelton and Cooper often discussed the sometimes tricky transition from college to the NFL, and they'll get a chance to show what they've learned in Year 2. The encouraging sign for both is neither seemed to hit the proverbial "rookie wall" and each had some of their better individual performances in the season's final few weeks. Often overshadowed by the defense's other issues was Bryant, who notched one of the best seasons of his career and proved to be this unit's most reliable and productive player. This year's defensive line draft class is one of the best in recent years and could be deep enough to force players who would typically be first-round picks into Day 2 selections

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