Myles Garrett has yet to play a meaningful down of professional football, yet he's already the face of the Cleveland Browns franchise. In order for Garrett to realize his full potential, he'll need to become a faceless man like the league's other top defenders.
HBO's Games of Thrones introduced the Faceless Men when Arya Stark entered the House of Black and White.
Faceless Men are trained to relinquish their former identities and become "no one," which allows them to transform into entirely different people, per the Game of Thrones Wiki.
Shirking one's identity and performing multiple roles will maximize Garrett's effectiveness.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams knows what he has in this year's No. 1 overall pick.
"I've never had a chance to draft the first overall pick ever, but I've had some pretty high draft picks," Williams said after the Browns' 20-14 preseason victory over the New Orleans Saints, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. "He's the one that has jumped out and fit in faster than any of the other ones, and I have had some really, really good ones. The reason that he moved up the depth chart was because of him and his teammates, not because of my evaluation."
Williams is a seasoned play-caller with 16 seasons as an NFL coordinator. His scheme ranks among the league's most aggressive with numerous pressure and coverage packages. He'll bring a blitz from any angle to confuse and frustrate opposing quarterbacks.
This is an important factor in Garrett's maturation as a pass-rusher.
His potential as an edge defender is exciting, and it's where he'll do the most damage. The Browns should expect Garrett to terrorize left tackles on his way to the quarterback. After all, very few defensive linemen present his combination of size, athleticism, flexibility and explosiveness.
NFL Network's Brian Baldinger provided an example of Garrett's freakish ability to bend the edge against Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith:
But the league's best pass-rushers aren't one-dimensional defenders. Their coordinators often place them in a position to exploit mismatches found anywhere along an offensive line. They attack the weak point and expose it.
Reggie White was the master. J.J. Watt is a real-life white walker roaming the land and destroying all in front of him. Khalil Mack plays both sides, too.
Williams plans on using Garrett in a similar manner based on preseason tells.
Before going any further, an explanation is necessary to understand how many ways the defensive end is already used. Football employs a numbering system along the defensive front to assign alignment. When referencing a defensive tackle, their primary positions are 1- and 3-technique. This is the most basic example. A quick description will be provided when presenting each of Garrett's alignments so far this preseason.
More often than not, the rookie will line up as a 5-technique on the outside shoulder of an opponent's left tackle, as seen below:
Garrett tends to be tilted in his stance and wider than a traditional 5-technique because this creates a better angle toward the quarterback.
The Texas A&M Aggies coaching staff used the standout defender's versatility and allowed him to play up and down the front. Williams is already using a similar approach by moving his star pupil around, particularly in sub-packages.
When Browns opponents face difficult down-and-distance situations, they can expect Cleveland to have four pass-rushers on the field at the same time.
Williams consistently used both Garrett and fellow defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah as interior pass-rushers during obvious passing downs. Garrett can line up as a 1-technique (outside shoulder of center), 2i (inside shoulder of guard) and 3-technique (outside shoulder of guard).
Generally speaking, guards aren't as athletic as offensive tackles. They're more squat and powerful at the point of attack. Facing Garrett in a pass-rushing situation is an absolute nightmare scenario. The defensive lineman's first-step quickness and length can beat most guards before they even get a chance to land their initial punch. If those blockers find themselves in a one-on-one matchup...game over.
At some point, Garrett will line up over the center and test the snapper as well. It's only a matter of time.
He'll also place more pressure on offensive tackles by lining up as a "wide nine." A 9-technique is located on the outside shoulder of a tight end. By angling and widening his lane, a defensive end places even more pressure on protecting the edge.
Garrett's stances vary, too. He's comfortable in a two-, three- or four-point stance. The rookie's first-step quickness is always apparent, but it provides an offense with different looks while searching for tendencies. Eventually, Williams will drop Garrett into space by calling a zone blitz from the opposite side just to throw everyone for a loop.
The Browns drafted the 21-year-old defensive end with the intention of developing him into a premier pass-rusher, but he'll also be needed to improve the team's run defense.
When opponents are in obvious running situations, Garrett will see more time lined up in the 4i alignment (inside shoulder of the offensive tackle).
Similiar movement can be expected from all professional defensive ends. They move up and down the line based on the situation. Very few can be effective, let alone dominant, when moved to every position.
The preseason provides a glimpse. There's no doubt the Browns' mad scientist will come up with more ways to utilize the rookie's rare skill set. Williams will have Garrett shifting, stunting and moving everywhere in an attempt to create consistent pressure.
The reason why is simple: Garrett is by far the most naturally gifted player on the Browns roster, and his potential has been on display during his first professional action, per Pro Football Focus:
Excitement to see Garrett perform against the NFL's best continues to grow, not unlike those who breathlessly await every new GoT episode. Anticipation is building toward something great. It's yet to be fully unleashed, but everyone knows it's coming.
This year's No. 1 overall pick won't be defined by one trait or ability. Garrett must juggle multiple identities as the focal point of the Browns defense. By allowing him to be the NFL's version of a faceless man, offenses won't be prepared for his inevitable emergence.