Myles Garrett currently ranks second in the NFL in sacks with 7.0 through five games, and if it wasn’t for Shaquil Barrett’s out-of-nowhere sprint to 9.0 sacks, Garrett would likely own the lead.
That’s all fine and wonderful, but how might Garrett help the Browns win this week, the most important game because it is the next?
The answer, of course, is by pressuring the passer. He’ll have quite a task in MVP candidate Russell Wilson, who is accurate and also very mobile, and is most dangerous when combining the two. That could make for a lot of long pursuits for Garrett, or perhaps whiffs if he rushes too hard and Wilson evades him.
Before he can even confront such a possibility, he’ll first have to fight though a blocker or three in pursuit of Wilson. So who might Garrett face?
On paper, the Seahawks trot out veteran Duane Brown and the embattled Germain Ifedi at left and right tackle, but Brown didn’t practice all week and is listed as doubtful due to a biceps injury. Ifedi has struggled, ranking 150th in pass blocking among all NFL linemen with 100-plus pass-blocking snaps, per PFF, but he’ll play at right tackle. There’s growing momentum for second-year lineman Jamarco Jones to find a place somewhere after his solid play in an emergency situation last week against the Rams, in which Jones, who has never played guard in a game, replaced the injured D.J. Fluker and played well against two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Might Jones replace Brown?
Jones is listed in the two-deep behind Brown and posted a single-game grade that is better than any Seahawks lineman’s composite grade this season, per Pro Football Focus. It’s a one-game sample size, which is small, but Seahawks coaches and players were raving this week about Jones’ performance in a disadvantageous situation Thursday. He also played plenty of left tackle at Ohio State, starting his final 27 games with the Buckeyes, so there’s definitely something there.
Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Seahawks Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey
Is it enough to stop Garrett?
There’s an interesting wrinkle to this entire situation. Last week, Jones replaced Fluker because usual backup guard Ethan Pocic was inactive due to a back injury. Pocic has returned to practice and looks like he might get the start at right guard, should Fluker, who did not participate all week and is doubtful due to a hamstring injury, be unable to go.
The Seahawks are looking at starting two backups, one with experience and one who is still very green (four games played, zero starts), getting his first live action on the line out of position and now in line to replace the team’s best pass blocker. It seems like it might be the ideal environment for the Browns to toy with alignments, especially on pass-rushing downs.
Remember Garrett’s strip sack of Jared Goff back in Week 3? That came on a play in which Garrett lined up directly in the B gap, splitting the 3 and 4 techniques in an alignment some might refer to as a 4i. Sheldon Richardson took up Garrett’s place in a wide 9, and both got to Goff, though Garrett was the one who recorded the strip sack.
For a team with a struggling right tackle and backups at right guard and left tackle coming to town, that sounds a lot like an ideal situation. And it would be if Wilson were a statue in the pocket, but he’s not.
So getting past the linemen is the first part of the challenge. As for taking down Wilson…
“He’s a better passer out of the pocket than when he’s in the pocket, so when you thought you have him corralled, he’s able to elude those sacks and tackles and direct traffic and throw it downfield and make big plays,” Garrett said of Wilson on Friday. “He’s also able to scramble and get yards himself if need be. He’s the real deal and he’s the complete package.”
Garrett and the Browns’ defense did a good job of “caging” Lamar Jackson in Week 4, but that won’t be the strategy against Wilson, he said.
“I’m also not going to play behind blocks like I did with Lamar,” Garrett said. “I felt like I was sitting behind trying to make sure that he wasn’t escaping, and I did more of that than I did rushing. So that was not very enjoyable for me. I want to make sure I do more rushing of him and more sacking than I am just sitting and waiting.”
The goal, then, will be to get to Wilson but also get to him quick enough for those in pass coverage to stick to their man. Tyler Lockett needed just a sliver of open space to make one of the league’s best plays in 2019.
“Guys have to keep on playing, keep on rushing until he is completely down and make sure that you have him wrapped out and try to get the ball out because if you do not, he is going to find a way to escape and he is going to find someone eventually,” Garrett said. “You have to plaster on the back because you never know. You think the play is over and you have two guys on him and he slips out and your guy is running free, finds him, hits him and it is a quick six.”