With the Cleveland Browns’ historically disappointing 2017 season over, it is time to look back at the season. With the Browns in the middle of a rebuild, the roster is filled with young players. So, let’s look at how the rookies that played significant snaps on the defensive side of the ball performed in 2017.
Defensive End Myles Garrett
Although Garrett played in only 11 games in 2017, starting nine, he showed that he is as good as advertised. He suffered an ankle sprain in the preseason that was a nagging injury for him the entire season. But Garrett was still performing at a high level, recording seven sacks, 31 tackles, and a forced fumble. He also had a pick-six interception in that showed his athleticism in Week 16, but it negated by a penalty.
Garrett got better as the season went on. Offenses have already had to adjust their offensive line to protect against Garrett, as he was prone to get double-teamed. But Garrett was able to use his rare combination of speed and power to cause havoc in the backfield. Although he finished with seven sacks, he flirted with double digit sacks because of the pressure he causes. He has the potential to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL as he continues to adjust to the NFL and gets better.
Safety Jabrill Peppers
Ask any Browns fan, and they would tell you that Peppers was playing out of position all season. In Gregg Williams’ defense, Peppers was lined up 20-25 yards off the line of scrimmage. Being so far off the ball, Peppers was not able to use his playmaking ability and struggled for most of the season.
But when he was moved into the box, he was able to make plays. He recorded his first interception of the season in Week 17 when he was playing close to the line of scrimmage. He finished the season with 57 tackles and the one interception. If Peppers is used in the box more often, he should have a good 2018 season.
Defensive Tackle Larry Ogunjobi
Ogunjobi was used in rotation at defensive tackle for the Browns, but he showed why the Browns picked him in the third round. He played a role in a much-improved Browns run defense, which finished seventh best in the NFL. Ogunjobi ended the season with 32 tackles, five tackles for loss, and a sack. He looks to be another strong player that the Browns can build around on their defensive line.
Linebacker James Burgess
Forced into a starting role after Jamie Collins’ season ended with a knee injury, Burgess gave the Browns quality playing time. He finished the season with 74 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, three sacks, and a forced fumble. He was stout against the run, but had issues in pass coverage, especially against tight ends. Although he fits better as a backup than a starter, he showed that he can play well enough when the Browns are forced into emergency situations.