In Schwartz, we trust: How Cleveland’s new defense will unlock Myles Garrett

If the Browns can start the year with a 2-0 record against two division rivals, this season could have the makings of something very special, especially with Garrett leading this new defense under the guidance of Schwartz.
CLEVELAND, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 10: Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns gestures to the fans during the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 10, 2023, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Week 1 of the NFL is officially wrapped up and the Cleveland Browns are undefeated, beating the Cincinnati Bengals decisively 24-3. Holding Joe Burrow, the newly highest-paid player in the NFL, to 0 touchdowns was quite the feat for Cleveland’s defense. Starting the year 1-0 against a division rival in the Bengals is a great feeling for Browns fans, and the feeling becomes even more incredible when you realize this is the first home opener win the Browns have had since 2004.

While Sunday’s steady rain over Cleveland Browns Stadium certainly played a part in some aspects of the game, the actual impact came from the Browns on defense. Namely the brand new defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, and his ability to unlock a new level of talent from Myles Garrett. 

Everyone knows Myles Garrett has been a consistent star on the Brown’s defense. As the franchise’s all-time sack leader, he is one of those generational talents that any fan across the league can appreciate. Browns fans know just how special of a player he truly is. 

Garrett’s $125 million contract keeps him in Cleveland until 2026, which is fantastic for the Browns. Ideally, the Browns would present another extension to the All-Pro defensive end in a few years. While the Browns have certainly invested financially into Garrett, Schwartz has also made some investments around the edge rusher, with a glimpse of that investment was seen this past Sunday against the Bengals.

Cleveland brought in Schwartz this offseason to bring a new identity to the defense. Part of that new identity comes from unlocking the next level to Garrett. It sounds crazy to imagine that there is another level of Garrett, considering he’s coming off of 16 sacks last year, along with 38 quarterback pressures and 60 combined solo and assisted tackles. Garrett is easily one of the best defensive ends in the league. Yet, the first game of this season showed us how Schwartz can unlock and unleash that next level.

Schwartz had Garrett playing on the outside, inside and even lined up as an inside linebacker against Cincinnati’s offensive line. Putting Garrett in as your inside linebacker to blitz behind a defensive front of Za’Darius Smith, Ogbo Okoronkwo and Dalvin Tomilson almost seems cruel and unfair for the opposing offense – but that wouldn’t stop Schwartz. We’ve seen firsthand that Garrett is a player who can transcend positional limitations and find success at multiple spots within the defense. Under Schwartz, it appears the sky is the limit.

Cleveland needs to continue to focus their defensive talents on the front lines around Garrett to capitalize on his strengths. Garrett is an impeccable defender – by building upon his talent and providing new opportunities for him to improve, the Browns make him a better player and the team gets better. 

The Browns are 1-0 going into Pittsburgh for Monday night’s game, and although it’s been a thrill to celebrate this home opener win, the team cannot get too comfortable against the Steelers. Garrett said it best himself after their win against the Bengals, “This was just one game, one day – it’s behind us now.” Cleveland needs to build on this momentum, but they cannot take the Steelers for granted. Mike Tomlin has yet to have a losing season as the head coach in Pittsburgh, and even without some of their key players like Dionate Johnson and Cameron Heyward – this team could still give the Browns a legitimate challenge in their second week.

Jim Schwartz told reporters regarding facing the Steelers on Monday, “This is a new year. This is a new year. So, what’s happened in the past that doesn’t mean anything to this game. We have respect for them [Steelers]. We always respect our opponents, but we’re going to accentuate us and what we do well.” One way of accentuating what the Browns do well is to continue utilizing Myles Garrett in a multi-positional role on defense.

If the Browns can start the year with a 2-0 record against two division rivals, this season could have the makings of something very special, especially with Garrett leading this new defense under the guidance of Schwartz.

At his core, Matt Fagan has been a writer since he could pick up a pen or pencil and scribble words down. He believes there is real power in the bond between sports and storytelling and always tries to cultivate that energy when covering Cleveland sports.

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