One of the key pieces to the Cleveland Browns’ defense is out on Sunday, as Cleveland takes on the Buffalo Bills. Olivier Vernon is out with a knee injury, and second-year defensive end Chad Thomas is the next man up.
Thomas was a third-round pick out of Miami in the 2018 NFL Draft. The former High School All-American has yet to live up to his potential in the NFL. Last year, during his rookie season, Thomas was a healthy scratch for the majority of the season, playing in only four games.
We'll be without at least two key defensive players for #BUFvsCLE
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 8, 2019
Losing a key veteran like Vernon (third on the team with three sacks) is a big blow to this already-struggling defense. This is the biggest game of the Browns’ season. Every game is basically a playoff game moving forward. At 2-6, Cleveland can not afford to lose any more games, if they want to keep their playoff dreams on life support.
This Sunday could be the opportunity that Thomas needs to get his career moving in the right direction. In limited time this season, Thomas has eight tackles and one sack.
Getting thrown into a starter’s role gives him a chance to show the Browns’ coaching staff his potential. Cleveland’s defense as a whole is not living up to expectations.
Thomas, and the entire unit, can start to turn their season around with a big performance on Sunday. Against the 6-2 Buffalo Bills, it will be easier than some may think.
Cleveland’s defense is 30th in the league against the run. Buffalo loves to run the ball (11th in rushing, 26th in passing). Cleveland’s pass defense is sixth in the league and should keep Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen guessing. If the Browns are going to win this game, they need to stop the Buffalo rush attack.
“It starts really in the run game. I think he does a tremendous job playing the 6-technique. That is going to be a major emphasis for us this week in this run game – really being physical with the tight ends trying to penetrate and knock the guy out back off the ball – and I think he has been decent in the pass rush. He is quick off the ball, and he has great acceleration. The thing we have to do this week is we have to make sure we get to the depth of the QB and counter.”
Out of the shadows and into the spotlight, Thomas has his shot to prove himself. Stopping the Buffalo rush offense and helping the Browns pick up a much-needed win will give Thomas and his coaches confidence in his ability.
Knee injuries can be tricky, so the absence of Vernon could be longer than expected. Uncovering the potential of Thomas might be a big turning point for this Browns’ defense, and possibly their season.