Cleveland Browns front four has hands full with Gore, Singletary, Allen

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 3: Frank Gore #20 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball during the second half against the Washington Redskins at New Era Field on November 3, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo beats Washington 24 to 9. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 3: Frank Gore #20 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball during the second half against the Washington Redskins at New Era Field on November 3, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo beats Washington 24 to 9. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

Winning Football still depends greatly on the ability to stop the run. Can the Cleveland Browns patched up front four contain the tough Bills running game?

The Cleveland Browns face yet another running team in Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Bills will be seeking to pound rookie first-time starter Chad Thomas, a.ka. rap star Major Nine.

Buffalo has already gained 1,000 yards on the ground using a combination of future Hall of Famer Frank Gore and rookie Devin Singletary toting the rock. With Olivier Vernon out with a knee injury, Myles Garrett is the only defensive lineman who is excelling against both the run and the pass. Neither Larry Ogunjobi nor Sheldon Richardson has been successful at stopping the run or putting pressure on the passer.

The Browns were unable to stop the run already, so losing Olivier Vernon puts an additional burden on the Front Four.  The obvious strategy is to run away from Garrett and see if Chad Thomas can do the same job as Vernon.

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Thomas warmed the bench last year, and some wondered if he might be spending too much time on his second career as a rap star and musician. Was this fellow for real? To answer that, DPD reached out to Eric Jordan, who is a V-Logger and co-creator of the podcast Browns in Our Blood. Jordan is also known as Monstalung, a successful music producer and writer in the Morgantown WV area.

Monstalung’s repertoire includes both rap and hip hop music. If there is one guy who can comment intelligently on both football and rap music, it is Jordan. To make a long story short, Major Nine is indeed a talented musical artist.  He’s not just a football player capitalizing on his fame.

Thomas seemed to get into Gregg Williams’ dawg house last year. This year, however, he played hard and was impressive enough to move to second string on a deep defensive line. With Olivier Vernon out, it is up to Thomas to plug the hole.

Though Myles Garrett and Vernon have both been outstanding, the Browns have had problems with the defensive tackles. Both Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi have been vulnerable. The Browns defense has already given up 1,130 yards on the ground. The Bills are going to test whichever side of the Browns defensive line is away from Myles Garrett.

Frank Gore, at age 36, has had nine 1,000 yard rushing seasons, and 12 consecutive years of 1,000 yards or more from scrimmage, interrupted only by having spent a year with the Miami Dolphins last year.  He is still an incredible player.

This year he is sharing the workload with rookie Devin Singletary.  This is really a credit to the Bills’ scouting because though he lit it up with Florida Atlantic in college, he put up absolutely uninteresting combine numbers. Whoever heard of a player making it in the NFL at  5-foot-7 and 203 lbs, with a 4.66 40 yard dash time and only 15 reps on the bench press? No way!

Well, yes way. On the strength of a breakout performance in Week 9 against Washington, Singletary is showing he can really play, undersized or no. He has 267 yards on the ground on only 40 attempts, thus averaging a mind-boggling  6.7 yards per carry. He’s also caught 12 balls out of 16 attempts. In sort, he is dangerous.

The Browns need to contain him or at least slow him down. 6.7 yards per carry is lethal if he can really sustain it. Buffalo also features a strong offensive line, with each lineman receiving at least a passing grade from Pro Football Focus.  From left to right, Dion Dawkins (13/64),  Quinton Spain (26/64), Mitch Morse (15/32), Jon Feliciano (35/64) and  Ty Nesekhe (38/64), all rank average or better among NFL starters. There are no weaknesses among the Buffalo fat kids.

Conversely, Garrett at 13th of 64 among edge rushers is the only one ranked above average by PFF. Roughly half of the NFL teams use the 3-4 base set, meaning that there are about 48 starting defensive tackles in the NFL. Thus Richardson at 46th out of 48 corresponds to one of the weakest starters in the league, with Ognunjobi (105th)  and Thomas (unranked)  seemingly not at all at the level of NFL starters. It sounds like it could be a long afternoon for the defense. For the year, they have allowed 4.9 yards per carry, and it might be tough to hold Buffalo to this level.

In addition to the ground attack, Josh Allen is chucking the pigskin for Buffalo.  Allen was part of the fabulous 2018 draft class that included Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph and Sam Darnold. Truth to tell, The Village Elliot wanted to draft Allen No. 1, on the basis that he was clearly a mutant capable of throwing a football 100 yards on the fly. But the other quarterbacks in that draft, including Baker Mayfield, also received extremely high grades from me. To make a long story short, there may have been more than one good quarterback out of that draft.

Many analysts were claiming that Allen was an inaccurate passer, based on so-so stats from Wyoming.  However, a review of the film showed that that was not the case. Wyoming had graduated most of its skill position players in Allen’s junior year, so the remaining players simply were not very good at catching passes.

Allen has led Buffalo to victory 11 times versus eight losses, in his brief NFL career. He has shown the rocket launcher arm, and has not thrown very many interceptions, but he also has a tendency to hold the ball too long or run too early.

He’s still only 23 years old and is still developing.  In passing situations, look for the Bills to put an extra helmet on Garrett and see if Thomas can beat them. If the Browns can not pressure the young passer, an aerial bombardment will result.

Chad Thomas has chance to prove his worth. dark. Next

If Thomas can hold his own to pressure Allen and slow down the run, the Browns have a chance to win. But if Gore and Singletary have big days, that is going to make life easier for Josh Allen. That will make it very difficult for the Browns to win. Hopefully, Chad Thomas can fill in effectively for Olivier Vernon and put together a good day in order to defeat a tough team.