Jordan Elliott is next man up for Cleveland Browns defense

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI - NOVEMBER 16: Quarterback Kyle Trask #11 of the Florida Gators is sacked by defensive lineman Jordan Elliott #1 of the Missouri Tigers second quarter at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MISSOURI - NOVEMBER 16: Quarterback Kyle Trask #11 of the Florida Gators is sacked by defensive lineman Jordan Elliott #1 of the Missouri Tigers second quarter at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Jordan Elliott is next man up for the Cleveland Browns

Andrew Billings has decided to opt out of the 2020 season due to the Covid situation for his own personal set of reasons which we shall not question — at all — but the Cleveland Browns must replace him on the team, and that could be a big opportunity for rookie Jordan Elliott.

The Browns roster seems to be dominated by Southeastern Conference players, especially from the Louisiana State University Tigers, and Elliott is also an SEC Tiger but a somewhat rarer breed from the University of Missouri, a.ka. Mizzou. Nevertheless, he may fit right in, even as a rookie.

Especially on defense, the Browns are all in on the platoon system this season, rather than attempting to rely on every-down players at most positions. The 6-foot, 311-pound Billings was stout against the run while Larry Ogunjobi has 12 sacks in 32 starts for the Browns in his career, which is a very impressive total. Not so impressive is the fact the Browns rushing defense the past two years, which has given up an appalling 4.9 yards per carry and 4478 rushing yards.

They have absolutely been getting blown to bits in the trenches. It’s impossible to believe that the  Browns have had a healthy Nick Chubb the past two years, but they have been outgained by their opponents by 684 yards the past two years.

Can we agree that the defense has room for a few run stuffers?

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Elliott was terrific in college. In fact, Pro Football Focus loved him against both the run and the pass, though many other scouting services ranked him higher against the run. Defensive coordinators, needless to say, love to change personnel groups in hopes of creating mismatches or confusion that can lead to offensive breakdowns and additional sacks and turnovers.

Hence a rookie does not have to be able to play on every down, but if he can excel in situational football, he can make himself a bona fide asset in Year One of his career. Early success is  much tougher for an offensive lineman who usually has to play every down in order to be a starter.

So, what’s there to not like about a first team All-SEC (Associated Press) interior defender? He was also First Team All-American from Pro Football Focus  In fact, since the beginning of the 2018 season, PFF graded him the highest of any interior defender in the 2020 draft class. PFF just loved the kid. So how in the world did he last until the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, 88th overall?

Part of the reason is that he had a poor combine. His 40-yard dash time of 5.02 is actually not bad for a defensive tackle who weighs 315 pounds, and in fact, his splits at 10 and 20 yards were quite good for a big man. But then, at his Pro Day, he inexplicably weighed in at 302 pounds, which is 13 pounds below his normal weight. Why?

There was no reason for him to lose weight since a 315 pound defensive tackle who can move is just fine in the NFL. Heck, Danny Shelton did a great job for the Cleveland Browns at 335 pounds and picked up a Super Bowl ring for the Patriots, yet there are glaciers that move faster than old Danny. No, 315 pounds is just fine for a defensive tackle, and his speed and quickness numbers were also fine or even a little better than fine. If there was one number to complain about, it would be the bench press number of 24. That’s only one more than safety J.T. Hassell, who posted 23 reps at his Pro Day.

Somewhere between the end of Elliott’s college career and his Pro Day, something was not quite right. Usually the strategy for what events at the Combine and Pro Day the athlete will participate in and train for is carefully selected with the help of the agent, which in this case, would have been First Round Management, headquartered in Miami.

Or who knows? Perhaps this was just a rookie mistake. In any case, the Browns decided to trust the scouting reports and their eyeballs over the Combine stats. If it had been an FCS conference followed by a poor combine, you might not believe the scouting reports.

But since he has performed against the likes of Alabama and Georgia, he has to be very good, and just screwed up the Combine. He made a bad decision to lose weight for Pro Day instead of improving his bench press, but that is a correctable flaw. The team trainer should be able to help if his workout regimen is simply flawed.

The same thing happened in 2018 to Orlando Brown, Jr. in 2018. Brown, the son of the former Browns player, had a strong college career, but an atrocious Combine, and yet made the Pro Bowl last year. Sometimes, coming out of college, players just don’t approach the Combine correctly. But if they have success versus  SEC competition, you have to disbelieve the Combine scores.

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Elliott should be a belligerent force against the run in short yardage situations, while yielding to Ogunjobi on passing downs. Neither player is as good as Sheldon RIchardson, but as a combination they might be equally effective.