Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham are headliners, but don't sleep on Browns' nasty pass rush

Yahoo Sports

Baker Mayfield gets all the headlines. If the story isn’t about him, it’s about Odell Beckham. We also know all about Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and David Njoku too.

The Cleveland Browns’ offense is talented and fun. The defense doesn’t get nearly as much attention, but it’s a great reason to be high on the Browns this season.

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn’t block Cleveland’s front in Friday night’s preseason game. The Browns’ starting defense posted five sacks in a little more than 18 minutes of game action.

Mayfield, Beckham and the rest are going to be exciting to watch when the Browns have the ball. And the defense might be nasty.

Browns defense looks great vs. Bucs

The Buccaneers have a good offense. They led the NFL in passing yards last season. New coach Bruce Arians is a noted offensive guru.

Yet when the starters were on the field, that offense was mostly unable to function. The Buccaneers had 78 yards with six punts and one missed field goal on their seven first-half possessions. Four of their last five possessions were three-and-out.

The pass rush led the way. Olivier Vernon, added in an offseason trade with the New York Giants, had two sacks. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, also added this offseason, had one. So did linebacker Joe Schobert and cornerback Denzel Ward. Even on plays that didn’t end in a sack, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston couldn’t get comfortable in the pocket because of the rush.

This will be one of the best defensive fronts in the game. There’s also talent at linebacker and in the defensive backfield. Beckham and Landry might have gotten the Sports Illustrated cover, but the defense might be why the Browns finally break through and win a division title.

Browns show some creativity

Steve Wilks had just one unsuccessful year as Arizona Cardinals head coach before he was fired. But he can coach defense and landed in a pretty good spot.

Wilks had a few creative blitzes to get pressure on Winston on Friday night. And if Wilks is showing some pressure packages in the preseason, you know he has plenty others he’s saving.

Sometimes he didn’t need to dial anything up. On Vernon’s first sack, Vernon absolutely ran over right tackle Demar Dotson in an impressive display of strength. Vernon barely beat Myles Garrett, who was getting pressure from the other side, to get to Winston.

The Browns have been building a talented roster on both sides of the ball. They’ve put a lot of emphasis on the defensive line, and it looks like it might pay off big this season.

Cleveland Browns defensive end Chris Smith drags down Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. (AP)
Cleveland Browns defensive end Chris Smith drags down Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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