General manager John Dorsey’s selection of Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward with the No. 4 pick of the NFL Draft was a stunner. On the board was North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, considered by a large majority of analysts the best defensive player in the draft.
Defensive end Myles Garrett, the No. 1 pick last year, wasn’t among the surprised.
He predicted the pick to his family — and was relieved to be right.
“Absolutely. Going with a guy like Chubb, he’s a good player but you have to rebuild that chemistry and once you become friends it’s just something that it’s hard to build with another guy,” Garrett said Monday at the Browns charity golf outing at Westwood Country Club. “It’s not certain that will happen every time and I feel like me and Emmanuel (Ogbah) just have something going that we can take to a higher level next year knowing that we’re both healthy and we’re both ready to get after it and have special years.”
Dorsey felt the Browns already had a Chubb-type player in Ogbah, the No. 33 pick in 2016. He had 5.5 sacks as a rookie and four in 2017 before missing the last six games with a broken foot.
Garrett and Ogbah only shared the field for five games, as Garrett missed the first four with a high ankle sprain suffered in practice the week of the opener and another game with a concussion. He also missed time in minicamp with a foot injury.
The key to the duo dominating as desired is a clean bill of health, especially for Garrett, who said that’s the biggest difference heading into Year 2.
“Healthier,” he said. “Know my playbook better, so definitely going to try to maneuver around it, bend the rules a little bit so I can be as effective as I can.”
Garrett tweaked his diet and workout regime in the offseason and declared himself in better shape as organized team activities began Tuesday. After watching Garrett run post-practice wind sprints shirtless last year in training camp, it’s hard to imagine he wasn’t already in peak physical condition at 6-foot-4, 272 pounds.
“A little more muscle than fat than last time, around the same weight,” he said. “Just different proportions.
“I was just trying to make sure I came back stronger and healthier than before.”
The goal is to not only be on the field for every game, but to stay on it for as many plays as he can. Garrett wasn’t 100 percent when he returned from the ankle injury and was eased back into the rotation. By the finale of the winless season in Pittsburgh, he played 52 of 59 defensive snaps (88 percent).
“That’s my goal, to be on the field as much as possible so I can make as big of an impact as possible,” he said. “I wanted to get in better shape, so I can be out there and make plays, create turnovers.”
Garrett finished with seven sacks in 11 games, including nine starts. He added 31 tackles, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He wasn’t satisfied with the numbers and expects a huge jump.
“Ten times better, 15 times better,” he joked. “That would be pretty good — 75 sacks? Just being healthy this year, it’s really about my confidence, being able to be more mobile, not have anything hold me back. It’s helped not only bring me confidence but bring my teammates confidence knowing that I’m always going to be out there, always going to be working and there’s not going to be any hindrances for this year and what we can do, what we can achieve.”
He expects the experiences as a rookie will contribute to more consistent production.
“You learn the pace of the game, you learned the physicality of it, it changes a little bit and what teams are going to throw at you,” he said. “You go back and you study a little bit, revamp on what you saw last year. You can make a big impact, or you could go downhill, but we’re not going to talk about that.”
Dorsey’s additions in the secondary, starting with Ward, should benefit Garrett. Coordinator Gregg Williams couldn’t play the aggressive man-to-man coverage he wanted last year because he didn’t trust his cornerbacks, and the soft coverage led to a ton of quick completions. Dorsey overhauled the position, which should improve the coverage and allow Garrett extra time to reach the quarterback.
“I think they’re going to do their job and give us time to do ours,” he said. “We’ll have plenty of time to get after the passer and me and Emmanuel will have a little competition going probably.”
Garrett accepted responsibility for not reaching the quarterback enough.
“It’s half me and half them,” he said, referring to the cornerbacks. “If I had got there a step quicker, if I was a little bit better with my hands or me timing the snap a little bit better, I could have got there myself no matter the coverage.
“We have a symbiotic relationship where I have to do better and it works for them and they get more picks and batted balls and more turnovers, and with what they do in the backend, it works for me, helping me have a little bit more time where I don’t have to try and rush or do something out of the ordinary to get there.”
The No. 1 thing on his to-do list remains incomplete from his rookie season. After he was drafted he said his first goal was to take down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but Garrett missed the opener with the ankle injury and Pittsburgh rested Roethlisberger in the finale.
They should finally face each other in the opener Sept. 9 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“Oh, thank God,” Garrett said. “I’m a man of my word, so hopefully I get to meet him on the field and off the field.”