Defensive tackle Andrew Billings was expected to play an important role for Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Andrew Billings has opted out of playing the 2020 season and has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced. Billings is the third Browns player to be placed on the list.
The Cleveland Browns made several free agent additions this offseason, filling multiple needs. Although the additions of Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper were the most newsworthy signings, the addition of Billings was one of the most important.
Billings was expected to be the No. 3 defensive tackle on the depth chart, sitting behind Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson. However, Billings was signed to play on early downs and to help stop the run.
The Browns had one of the worst run defenses in 2019, finishing with the third-worst run defense, allowing 144.7 yards per game. After allowing 5.0 yards per carry, it was clear the Browns needed a player on the defensive line who can eat up blockers and allow the linebackers to flow to the ball before a runner could gain chunks of yardage.
Billings was signed to fill that role. The 6-foot-1 and 328 pound defensive tackle is able to force double teams and is strong enough to eat up both blockers. His ability to open up gaps by taking on multiple blockers is something the Browns defense did not have last season.
Now that Billings has opted-out for the 2020 season, the Browns will have to figure out how they want to approach rushing downs. Ogunjobi and Richardson were unable to clog up the middle last season, allowing offensive linemen to flow to the second level and making blocks on the linebackers. So it is hard to imagine they will become that much better against the run in 2020.
Browns third-round selection Jordan Elliott will now become a key part of the defensive tackle rotation. However, his strength is rushing the passer and is not known for taking on multiple blockers to clear lanes for the linebackers.
With several questions about the linebacker group, the Browns needed strong play from their defensive line, especially up the middle. With the loss of Billings, the Browns defense could be in for a lot of trouble against the run in 2020
The Browns may decide to scour the free agent market for a run stuffing defensive tackle considering they are now thin up the middle. But no matter what, Billings deciding to opt-out for the 2020 season is going to create issues for the Browns defense.