The Cleveland Browns are still trying to improve their defensive line, even this late in the process before their first game of the 2018 NFL season kicks off against division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On Wednesday, September 5th, Zettel was a surprise release by the Detroit Lions and it didn’t take John Dorsey and his crew long to go get the guy and bring him to Cleveland.
My wife’s a Detroit Lions fan and we watch them every week (after I’ve watched the Browns game, obviously) and I remember being impressed with Kerry Hyder who seemed to come from nowhere and become a very good player on that defensive line. Once he went down with a season-ending injury, it was Zettel who seemed to step up and grab my attention as the next guy who came up good for the Lions. I didn’t know anything about him but the more I watched him play the more I liked him. When the surprise news was announced that the Detroit Lions had released him, I had my fingers crossed that the Browns would grab him. It didn’t take very long before the news filtered through that they had indeed grabbed him off waivers.
Let’s not get carried away here, Zettel isn’t going to set FirstEnergy stadium alight but I love the move because he is a good player who will offer quality depth at the defensive end position. I’d like to see him go on to the depth chart as the #2 LDE behind Emmanuel Ogbah and in front of this year’s 3rd round draft pick Chad Thomas.
I’d guess that it’s the seemingly slow development of the rookie, Chad Thomas, that has prompted them to make the decision to grab the ex-Penn State player. Zettel has played in 29 total games with the Lions and started all 16 in 2017. According to the Pro Football Focus lot, Zettel was the 48th ranked edge defender last year with a good rating of 70.7, which was better than Ogbah’s 64.0 and Chris Smith’s 63.7. I’m quite often surprised with PFF’s ratings but I take what they do as a fair indicator of whether someone can cut it in the NFL or not.
He did perform better than Ogbah in 2017 but he did also play in 6 more games due to Ogbah’s season being cut short due to a foot injury. I think this year is a year in which Ogbah has to step up his good play to a consistent level. I think this is another good reason to bring Zettel in as it should push Ogbah on now that he has a legitimate contender for his job just behind him.
Zettel totalled 6.5 sacks in 2017 which looks great. 4 of those came in the first 4 weeks of the season, though, with the next one not coming until week 9 against the Packers.
If you look at everything on paper between Ogbah and Zettel, I’d have to say that the latter actually looks the better player. They also have the same measurables in terms of height and weight but Ogbah has a longer reach and looks a bit more athletic. Both players have shown improvements from their rookie years to their second years in the league with Zettel showing the biggest improvement. They are both entering their third years in the NFL which will be important for them both as it will be looked at as if they either get it or they don’t.
I’m assuming Zettel will go in as a LDE and will be the one to push and challenge Ogbah for that starting job and, you know what, the more I look at the two players and compare them the more I think we’re in for another good positional battle that will benefit the team as players play harder to win the job. Nice move Mr Dorsey!
To make room for Zettel, the Browns have waived recently added backup centre Aaron Neary. He was on the team for only 4 days.