Deep dive into the defensive tackle room before cutdowns

Before the cutdown day arrives for the Cleveland Browns, I wanted to take a quick look at the defensive tackle room, focusing specifically on the number of snaps the unit will see and how this could affect the building of the defensive tackle room led by free agent signing Dalvin Tomlinson. 

The signing of Shelby Harris a fortnight ago filled a large hole for the Browns. The Browns were able to acquire a veteran presence who can be counted on for 500 snaps over the season. This addition can let the Browns be more flexible when filling out the rest of the defensive tackle room. As of late, the Browns have rostered 5 defensive tackles during the season. 

The defensive tackles have averaged 2146 snaps over the last three seasons according to Pro Football Reference. The number of snaps has trended down every year, as the Browns prioritize playing three or four defensive ends in obvious passing situations. The Browns will likely use these “NASCAR” packages this season. Za’Darius Smith, the new Browns’ starting defensive end, is one of the most productive pass rushers when lined up over a guard or center. If the Browns remain reliant on defensive ends instead of defensive tackles, then the room should see a snap count under 2100 snaps. This could lead to the Browns only carrying four defensive tackles into the season. 

Andrew Berry rostered four defensive tackles in his first year. The 2020 defensive tackle room consisted of Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, Jordan Elliott, and Vincent Taylor. The group played 2,261 snaps, a team-high over the past three years. That was clearly too high of a workload for the group as the Browns have reduced the total amount of snaps while adding players to alleviate fatigue. Andrew Berry could roster only four defensive tackles again if the snap count and workload can be managed appropriately. This is how I see the defensive tackle room shaking out under that assumption. I included the amount of snaps played by each defensive tackle over the last three seasons.

Dalvin Tomlinson

Browns Dalvin Tomlinson

Three-Year Snap Count:

2020: 32

2021: 641

2022: 605

Dalvin Tomlinson could be the most impactful free agent signing this season. His ability to anchor against double teams and slow down offensive linemen from climbing to the second level will bolster a run defense that was one of the worst in league history.

As a pass rusher, he uses his hands well to beat blocks and generate interior pressure. In three defensive end looks, Dalvin can move from the 3-technique to the 1-technique and focus on capping the front of the pocket. I would expect the veteran defensive tackle to exceed 600 snaps for the third year straight.  

Shelby Harris

Browns Dalvin Tomlinson
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – OCTOBER 30: Shelby Harris #93 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates a stop against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field on October 30, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

Three-Year Snap Count:

2020: 441

2021: 566

2022: 593

As I mentioned earlier the signing of Shelby Harris fortified the defensive tackle room. His starter-level ability has reinforced a weak room. Shelby Harris is an experienced 3 and 5-technique who is still a skilled pass rusher.

Most importantly for the Browns, Shelby has proven that he is a quality run defender who can reset the line of scrimmage. The Browns will have to rely heavily on the veteran tackle this season. I would expect him to see well over 600 snaps this season as he and Dalvin form the bedrock of a capable run defense.

Siaki Ika

Browns Dalvin Tomlinson

Three-Year Snap Count:


The third-round pick out of Baylor has had a shaky start to his NFL career. The 6-foot-4 350-pound defensive tackle has slowly adjusted to the physicality of NFL linemen. Ika did end the preseason on a high note, recording a sack against the Chiefs on Saturday. The rookie should be used as a backup in the 1-technique. The Browns have shown that they won’t shy away from giving rookie defensive tackles reps.

Jordan Elliott saw over 350 snaps during his rookie season. I believe that Ika will play over 400 snaps during the season. He is a skilled run-defender who will revamp our run defense. While he won’t play often on third downs, look for the rookie to be an impact player on early downs.


Maurice Hurst Jr.

Browns Dalvin Tomlinson

Three-Year Snap Count:

2020: 227

2021: 41

2022: 0 (Placed on IR in the preseason with a torn bicep.)

Maurice Hurst Jr. could be the weapon X of the defensive tackle room. The oft-injured veteran has had an arduous journey after being named an All-American in college. Since arriving in Berea, Hurst has turned the heads of coaches and fans alike.

The 28-year-old defensive tackle looked polished as a pass rusher in practices and games. He also did well when defending the run. If Maurice Hurst Jr. can stay healthy, I can see him being a large part of the defensive unit, playing upwards of 600 snaps as a backup.  

Trysten Hill

Browns Dalvin Tomlinson

Three-Year Snap Count:

2020: 212

2021: 194

2022: 228

Trysten Hill could be the first player on the outside looking in after cut day. The former second round pick was able to contribute as soon as he arrived. Hill seemed locked in and engaged this preseason. The young defensive tackle is known for his passions violently boiling over during the game.

Trysten Hill has also had struggles staying healthy throughout his career. Seeing a more professional and healthy Hill will make Andrew Berry strongly consider keeping the veteran defensive tackle. If Hill is cut it is unlikely that he would return to the practice squad or team later on. The Browns may choose to keep Trysten Hill and build out a five-man rotation to have a more manageable workload for the veteran unit. 

Tommy Togiai

Browns Dalvin Tomlinson

Three-Year Snap Count:

2020: N/A

2021: 124

2022: 224

Tommy Togiai has had an impressive preseason looking like an entirely new player. The third-year defensive tackle has been typecasted as a stout run defender, but Togiai has shown a diverse set of pass-rush moves this summer. Togiai seems much more confident in his hand usage, as his strikes and their placement have been effective in practices and games.

Unfortunately, this development might have come a little too late in Cleveland. Tommy has been a good locker-room presence, but his inability to get playing time in one of the worst units is worrisome.

When Togiai played in the regular season it was not up to par. His lack of playing time and on-the-field production does not bode well for his future in the league. I do believe that if the Browns cut Togiai, then he will be a priority for them to bring back on the practice squad. I do believe he can become a serviceable player, but he has just yet to show it.

Jordan Elliott

Browns Dalvin Tomlinson

Three-Year Snap Count:

2020: 350

2021: 464

2022: 703

Jordan Elliott has been the large constant in the Cleveland Browns defensive tackle room. He was the third draft pick made by the Andrew Berry-Kevin Stefanski regime. The veteran restructured his deal in the off-season so he would be more likely to make the team. Unfortunately, the veteran has shown no significant improvement in his time here.

This means he is a liability when on the field. Every type of double-team block not only removes him from the play but it often times removes the defender behind him from the play. Elliott gets out of his stance too late and too high to get any significant push on the line of scrimmage. I like Jordan Elliott, and there are plays where he flashes his strength and speed, but he can’t do it at a consistent enough level.

Despite $1.5 million reasons for him to remain on the roster, the Browns cannot sacrifice a roster spot for him.

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Story originally appeared on Browns Wire