In Part 1 of our defensive line preview for training camp, we looked at the Browns’ starting defensive line. In Part 2, we will look at the players primarily expected to be in the rotation for playing time: Adrian Clayborn, Andrew Billings, Chad Thomas, and Jordan Elliott.
5. Adrian Clayborn - Veteran Backup DE
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 280 lbs | Age: 32
Experience: 10 years | College: Iowa
Adrian Clayborn was a 1st round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers way back in 2011. While he didn’t quite live up to his first-round potential, particularly early in his career with Tampa Bay, he has found success over the years as a rotational pass rusher with the Falcons and Patriots. Over his last four seasons, Clayborn has combined for 20.5 sacks.
The sacks aren’t the best indicator of Clayborn’s situational impact. According to Pro Football Focus, he registered a team-high 39 hurries in 2019 for the Falcons, with a pass-rush win rate of 21.1%, which was fifth in the NFL (behind the likes of J.J. Watt and Myles Garrett). His run defense and tackling ability won’t be the best, but Clayborn is a clear player where you know what you’re getting: a guy who can truly get after the quarterback, which Cleveland’s defense can thrive on. Imagine having two of the top five pass rushing defenders on the field at the same time.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
6. Andrew Billings - Veteran Backup DT
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 328 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 5 years | College: Baylor
The other veteran free agent defensive lineman who the Browns signed this offseason was Andrew Billings. The veterans the Browns went after for depth aren’t just bodies to eat up a couple of snaps on the line — these guys can contribute some high quality play for the time they are in there. Billings was a fourth-round pick by the Bengals in 2016. This past season, he finished the year with 35 tackles and 1 sack. We asked our Bengals affiliate about Billings the other day, and here’s what they had to say:
Billings is a great guy to come in and force double teams, but he just really needs to work on becoming more dynamic of a pass rusher to take his game to the next level. The other pass rushers and linebackers will really appreciate Billings being around, but unfortunately he hasn’t developed into a player that really sets him apart from the other big defensive tackles.
Billings is still young at 25 years old and is expected to share time with Larry Ogunjobi. His size can help clog running lanes too.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
7. Chad Thomas - Backup DE
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 278 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 3 years | College: Miami
After basically being red-shirted his rookie season, Chad Thomas received a bigger opportunity to contribute in 2019 after an injury to Olivier Vernon and the suspension to Myles Garrett. In 16 games, Thomas registered 26 tackles and 4 sacks. After not receiving opportunities in 2018, I was happy to see Thomas at least rack up some sacks with playing time. However, those who watched Thomas closely know that he struggled for much of the time he was in there. Pro Football Focus says that he had 17 quarterback pressures on the year, and a run defense grade of 33.2. That will not cut it.
With Garrett, Vernon, and Clayborn expected to receive the most snaps at defensive end and Clayborn already not being the best run defender, Thomas needs to improve a lot heading into 2020. The competition behind him isn’t full of big names, but Thomas’ play from a year ago probably won’t cut it as a depth player — the team would rather use that spot on someone who is better against the run.
Final Roster Odds: 50%
8. Jordan Elliott - Rookie DT
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 302 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: Rookie | College: Missouri
The Browns selected Jordan Elliott with the 88th overall pick in this year’s draft (third round). Pro Football Focus was much higher on him than others were. PFF had him as the No. 23 player on their big board and the highest-graded interior defensive lineman in the past two seasons, excelling as a pass rusher and a run stopper. Browns GM Andrew Berry said that Elliott is a good scheme fit for Cleveland and “has the right physical skill set to be a 3-technique in our defense with quickness gap, penetrating ability and who was very disruptive at Missouri.”
Some of the downsides to Elliott has been his maturity, durability, and conditioning for all four quarters, but he’s worked on that. Last year, Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson carried way too much of the workload. Elliott adds to that mix, along with veteran free agent signing Andrew Billings. As far as playing in Cleveland goes, Berry said that Elliott’s agent would text him leading up to the draft, saying, “Hey, man, this this guy he really wants to be in Cleveland. He really wants to be a Brown.’”
Here is a scouting report from CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler, who projected Elliott to be a 2nd- or 3rd-round pick and had him as the sixth-best defensive lineman on his board.
A one-year starter at Missouri, Elliott lined up at the one- and three-technique positions in defensive coordinator Ryan Walter’s versatile four-man front. After a non-descript freshman year at Texas and a solid backup season as a sophomore, he reworked his body and focus leading into the 2019 season and consistently graded above average on each tape.
Physically impressive on the hoof, Elliott peppers blockers with his long, aggressive frame to earn an early advantage, locking out, finding the ball carrier and disposing of his man. While he can bend, inconsistent pad level was a common theme on his film that negated his flexibility. Overall, Elliott is strong and slippery with effort in pursuit and budding awareness, displaying all the tools to be a high-ceiling, scheme-versatile NFL starter – if the character checks out.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
What are your expectations for Chad Thomas?
This poll is closed
He’ll show some improvements this year as a rotational player.
About the same as we saw last year
He won’t make the final roster
Which player will have the biggest impact on the Browns’ defense in 2020?
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