Week 1 of the 2019 regular season is finally approaching, and the Titans travel to Cleveland to visit an old rival in the Browns (they used to play in the AFC Central for three years). The two teams played each season between 2014 and 2017, with the Browns winning the first two games and the Titans winning the last two. For those that know me outside of Music City Miracles, you probably know I grew up a Browns fan, so...this could get a little awkward.
Anyway, this Browns team looks a little different from the last time Tennessee faced them, adding a significant amount of talent on both sides of the ball that have made them one of the most hyped and talked about teams in the offseason. The hype may have gotten extreme, but there’s no question this team has plenty of talent and could very well be consistent postseason contenders for a while.
One of the bigger pieces on this Browns team is third-year defensive end Myles Garrett. In his sophomore season Garrett posted 13.5 sacks, 29 quarterback hits, and 12 tackles for loss, racking up a Pro Bowl and Second Team All-Pro honors in the process. Needless to say, Garrett is one of the absolute best edge rushers in the game, and adding Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson to the starting pass rush should only make him more productive in 2019.
The Titans are already familiar with Garrett, as he sacked Mariota once in the matchup in 2017 (To clarify, Mariota gave himself up when Garrett approached him, a wise move). That was also a time when the Titans had Taylor Lewan readily available, which won’t happen on Sunday as he serves his four-game suspension.
This leaves backup left tackle and fan favorite Dennis Kelly to cover Garrett, a tall order indeed. This could very well be the key matchup for the entire game, and for Mariota’s sake Kelly better be up for the task. So let’s look at what the Titans must expect from this beast of a pass rusher in this film breakdown.
As you may expect, Garrett is a violent, insanely athletic edge rusher, and few moments did as well to show that as on this sack on Sam Darnold in Week 3 last season.
Here, Garrett rushes up the A-gap...
...as he violently rips through the gap with incredible power against center Spencer Long, taking down Darnold in the process.
Here’s how it looks in full motion.
Garrett’s rip move on this play is sensational and explains why he was drafted #1 overall. His quickness and violence rushing the passer is something the Browns were mostly lacking since their return to the league in 1999, and it was certainly shown here.
In addition to an impressively aggressive display of pass rushing techniques, Garrett is also known for his timing of the snap count. This has gotten him in trouble on certain plays with offsides penalties, but when timed just right, as shown here, it can be quite deadly.
As shown here against the Bengals, Garrett starts his movement just as the center snaps the ball. His burst off the snap gives him a distinct edge over the left tackle, as he’s already in better position to bring down the quarterback.
The lineman’s efforts to contain Garrett are futile, and he brings down Jeff Driskel for the sack.
To an extent the Titans can stop Garrett in his tracks by working the hard count, but that can only go so far against a defender of his quality. His quickness off the snap is something to behold and the Titans will most likely experience it first hand on Sunday.
Lastly, let’s look at maybe Garrett’s most impressive sack from 2018 against the Texans.
Garrett is contained for a brief moment here before breaking loose...
...and dragging Deshaun Watson down for the sack. How he does it can only be explained in full motion.
It’s been pointed out that Watson should have stepped up in the pocket to help out his offensive line, and yes this is the Texans offensive line but that shouldn’t make what Garrett does on this play any less impressive (You’ll probably still feel that way won’t you...). This horse collar sack is a strange case where it’s a completely legal play, as the horse collar penalty is not applied when a quarterback is in the pocket.
Either way Garrett takes Watson down with one hand, far from an easy feat to achieve.
Titans fans probably know how good Myles Garrett is by now, and depending on how Kelly plays against him the team may have to double the young pass rusher. Or maybe they don’t. Regardless the Browns have a ton of talent with that starting pass rush, with Garrett being the most notable, and Kelly’s performance will dictate how much the Titans will miss Taylor Lewan in the first quarter of the 2019 season.