Jim Schwartz may have arrived too late to salvage Cleveland’s relationship with Jadeveon Clowney, but he'll still have a premier pass rusher to work with in Myles Garrett.
Garrett will be Schwartz's star in his new defense. He's certainly not stopping there.
"The way you affect the game the most in this league is through pass rush," Schwartz said Wednesday, via the team's official site. "We're going to put a lot of emphasis on pass rush. We'll set the bar high at the position."
Cleveland dedicated substantial resources to its edge-rushing group in recent years, signing Clowney in 2021 and bringing him back for another go-around in 2022. The Browns added former first-rounder Takkarist McKinley in 2021, too, and he enjoyed a quality season before his campaign was cut short by injury, ending his time in Cleveland after one year.
A cornerstone player for the franchise, Garrett signed a five-year $125 million extension in 2020. Now, he's the lone remaining headliner along the defensive front.
Evaluating the Browns' 2022 approach to their defensive interior is a subjective exercise. To most, Cleveland willingly overlooked defensive tackle in 2022, instead putting its hopes on the shoulders of third-year defender Jordan Elliott and supplementing the group with 2018 first-rounder Taven Bryan. The team, though, will prefer to spin it as testing Elliott with the belief he'd produce.
The results weren't great: Elliott didn't live up to expectations, finishing with 36 tackles (five for loss), two sacks and a PFF grade just north of 40, while Bryan fared better but finished second in sacks with a grand total of three -- 13 shy of Garrett's 16.
Simply, the Browns' defensive front wasn't good enough. Look no further than the team's 25th-ranked run defense, which was too often carved up by opposing backs of every caliber.
Garrett will fit in nicely in Schwartz's wide nine role and will remain the focus of every opposing offense and Browns fans everywhere. But as Schwartz explained Wednesday, it's his "job to give (Garrett) some answers and to be able to give him some pieces, scheme-wise and personnel-wise, around him to allow him to be free and more productive."
It's not difficult to read between the lines. Schwartz knows they'll only maximize Garrett if they beef up the rest of the defensive front, forcing opposing offenses into the tough decision of determining to whom they'll dedicate the most blocking resources.
"The bar is set really high for a good reason," Schwartz said of Garrett. "We're going to work real hard at it, and he's going to play his part."
So too will general manager Andrew Berry, who will be tasked with improving the group this offseason. There's simply no other option if the Browns hope to return to serious playoff contention.