Myles Garrett, off to hot start with 5 sacks, aiming for penalty-free pursuits of quarterbacks

Myles Garrett matched his career high for sacks in a game in Week 1 with two. He reset it a week later when he took down Jets quarterbacks three times in the Browns’ Monday night win.

Garrett’s fast start has come at a price. Trevor Siemian suffered a season-ending ankle injury as a result of a Garrett hit.

Garrett expressed remorse for the injury to Siemian, which he understandably did not intend when he hit the quarterback.

After that, the questions shifted to his new tendency to draw yellow laundry. It’s become prevalent in 2019.

Garrett was flagged five times in two games: twice for roughing the passer (both against the Jets), twice for offsides, and once for unnecessary roughness (in Week 1 versus Tennessee). All but one of those penalties — one of the two offsides calls against New York — were accepted by the opponent. 

The offsides explanation is simple: In an attempt to win around the edge, Garrett has been caught trying to get too good of a jump off the line. Also, his get-off is arguably the quickest of all NFL defensive ends. Sometimes it looks like he’s offsides even when he’s not, and such an advantage is worth a 5-yard penalty or two.

Two of the other penalties have since circulated the internet plenty: The unnecessary roughness flag from Week 1 that came as a result of Garrett’s slap of an opponent’s helmet, and the roughing penalty that resulted in Siemian’s injury.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens pulled Garrett aside after the second roughing call Monday night to better understand what his star defensive end was doing on the field.

“He asked me what I was doing and what was I thinking,” Garrett recalled afterward. “I told him that there was no way that was a late hit and I felt like I tackled him properly. I wasn’t trying to do anything illegal. I struck him just in case I can affect his throw or maybe even get the sack. I was just trying to play the game.”

Garrett has a point about the roughing calls, especially for those football-watching veterans who have seen much worse go unflagged in bygone eras of the game. But the NFL is rightfully attempting to make the game safer for players, especially for quarterbacks. Last season’s institution of the body-weight stipulation to roughing left many players and fans alike puzzled, if not downright incensed. Garrett’s body weight landed on top of Siemian when he was injured, bringing sense to the call, even if he didn’t exactly make contact late. 

The first roughing call, though, perplexed Garrett. He went directly to the source for clarification, asking the nearest official for an explanation.

“I mean obviously on that play I have to go back and look at it,” Garrett said. “They said I was a little high on the strike zone. I have to see where I was at. If I felt like I was at the right place and lower a little bit, if I was in the wrong place than I have to lower a lot.”

Garrett had a legitimate point about the call, which didn’t seem all that harmful in real time. But again, in today’s age of football, a defender must be cognizant of such calls being possible thanks to added attention paid to quarterback safety.

This week he will spend at least some time reviewing and correcting his technique in order to avoid similar issues. But above all, he’s not going to turn down his aggression. There are quarterbacks to be sacked in all 16 games, and a Defensive Player of the Year award to be won.

“I called Myles over to the side and I talked to him,” Kitchens explained Monday night. “He told me what the officials told him. I sent him out there and his job was to get after the quarterback and that’s what he’s going to continue to do. So, you guys can make a big story about it all you want, but he’s going to continue to get after the quarterback.”

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