Three Defensive Cleveland Browns Who Could Breakout in 2021

Three Defensive Cleveland Browns Who Could Breakout in 2021

Nick Pedone
2 years ago
3 min read

Now that the dust has settled on free agency, the NFL Draft, and rookie minicamp, let's take a look at three Browns players who could be in for breakout years in 2021.

General manager Andrew Berry put together one hell of an offseason.

He added defensive key pieces such as John Johnson III, Troy Hill and Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. He was also able to plug holes with players like defensive tackle Malik Jackson and linebacker Anthony Walker.

In the draft, Berry was able to find first-round value in day two, complementing first-round corner Greg Newsome II with linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

While there's been some serious buzz about the big-name additions and returns, let's look at some under the radar players that could breakout in 2021.

Linebacker Jacob Phillips

The Browns linebacking room was simply not cutting it last season.  

The pairings of Mack Wilson, B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith never panned out. When rookie Jacob Phillips stepped in as the starter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he impressed.

While his rookie statline was nothing spectacular, Phillips navigated the position well when he was called upon with five combined tackles in two playoff starts.

This year's linebacking group should look much different with Owusu-Koramoah in a hybrid ROVER role while Phillips and Walker play alongside the rookie.

The Browns continually preached getting faster on both sides of the football and making Phillips a permenant starter in his second season would allow them to do so. 

Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott

For whatever reason, Jordan Elliott always seems like the forgotten piece of Berry's 2020 NFL Draft class. 

Despite this, he's another rookie that impressed during his first season and will have an opportnity to step up in a big way during 2021. When the Browns released Sheldon Richardson and allowed Larry Ogunjobi to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency, Elliott's name jumped up the depth chart.

The Browns decided to address their issue at defensive tackle by adding a bunch of bodies and giving defensive coordinator Joe Woods liberty to rotate them all and keep fresh legs.

The Browns signed veteran defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Sheldon Day to one-year deals while also drafting Ohio State's Tommy Togiai in the fourth-round. Marvin Wilson signed a big undrafted free agent contract and the Browns are giving Malik McDowell a second chance at football. The room seems crowded once again.

Due to the lack of standout talent, Elliott has an opportunity to be a cut above the rest.

Defensive end Curtis Weaver

Curtis Who? 

Curtis Weaver. A 2020 fifth-round pick that missed all of last year due to a foot injury in training camp that caused him to be waived by the Miami Dolphins and claimed by the Cleveland Browns.

Clowney is coming off of a torn ACL and has played all 16 games just once in his seven-year NFL career. The Browns also released rotational defensive end Adrian Clayborn, did not re-sign the injured Olivier Vernon and did not draft a single edge rusher in 2021. This leaves room for Weaver to make an impact.

In three seasons at Boise State, Weaver totaled 34 sacks, two interceptions, six passes defended and three forced fumbles.

Perhaps Weaver could be the longterm answer opposite Myles Garrett. He'll have a chance to share rotational snaps with Porter Gustin in relief of Garrett and Clowney.

Share article on: