Packers wary of Browns' top pick Myles Garrett's 'freakish ability'

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) celebrates after sacking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on Nov. 26, 2017, in Cincinnati.

GREEN BAY – The last time the Green Bay Packers faced the first pick in the draft during his rookie season, the results were not pretty.

It was 2012 and the Indianapolis Colts were 1-2 under new quarterback Andrew Luck when the 2-2 Packers came to town.

Luck confounded the Packers defense, completing 31 of 55 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in a 30-27 Colts victory.

On Sunday, the Packers will face the No. 1 pick in the draft again.

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett missed the first four games of the season with an ankle injury, but has played in seven of the last eight games, including five straight starts at right end.

Garrett was expected to have the kind of instant impact Von Miller brought to the Denver Broncos (second pick in ’11) and Khalil Mack brought to the Oakland Raiders (fifth pick in ’14) during their rookie seasons. Miller had nine sacks in 12 games and Mack had 7½ in 12 games.

Thus far, Garrett has five sacks and 10 quarterback knockdowns to go along with 21 tackles and a fumble recovery. By comparison he has the same number of quarterback takedowns (sacks and hits) as Clay Matthews and two more than Nick Perry.

“I’ve watched film on him,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “He’s definitely a talent. I can see why he went No. 1 overall. Good player. He’s got freakish ability. It kinds of speaks for itself why he went No. 1.”

Bakhtiari will draw the main assignment of blocking Garrett. In most base situations, Garrett will line up at right end, but in some nickel downs he’ll move inside and rush over the guard.

The 6-4, 272-pound Garrett ran the 40-yard dash in an amazing 4.64 seconds, which is a time some tight ends dream about.

The Browns rank 10th in total defense but 26th in scoring defense and 22nd in sacks. Coordinator Gregg Williams has the makings of a very good unit as the total yards ranking shows, but everyone would like to see Garrett reach another level.

“Myles has been good,” coach Hue Jackson said. “Obviously, the sack numbers are not exactly where we want them to be, but the pressure has been there. He’s done a good job of preparing week in and week out.

“Last week (against San Diego), he was so close in so many opportunities, and I just think he’s got to keep working at it. That’s life in the National Football League as a pass rusher.”

The Packers will try to run the ball to make sure that quarterback Brett Hundley doesn’t bear the weight of the offense on his shoulders, but Cleveland ranks sixth in that department, allowing a league-low 3.3 yards per carry.

If they can’t run the ball, it’s going to free Garrett and his teammates to rev up their engines and go after Hundley. That’s the last thing the Packers can afford in a game they can’t lose.

Part of the difficulty in playing Cleveland is deciphering what defense Williams has his team in. The Browns line up in many different fronts, some of which can produce one-on-ones for Garrett.

“They run a ton,” center Corey Linsley said. “That's one of the things we notice on film too, the amount of miscommunication that other teams have had, just from the sheer diversity in the fronts.

“They'll play everything from a straight 4-3 defense — they have an Okie look with a bunch of guys on one side; they have everything. Again, that's a credit to, not only the coach, but the guys' mental awareness, intelligence when it comes to football.”

The Browns are hoping it leads to a bunch of sacks for the No. 1 pick Sunday.

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