Two games into the season and it is already next man up for the Cleveland Browns‘ pass rush. The problem is there are only so many men on the defensive line they can turn to.
Jadeveon Clowney has been ruled out with an ankle injury, while defensive end Chase Winovich landed on the injured reserve (IR) list this week, where he will remain for the next four games. All Pro Myles Garrett is expected to play Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, though the Browns added him to the injury report on Tuesday, September 20, with a previously undisclosed neck injury that led to his absence from that day’s practice session.
After Stephen Weatherly sustained a knee injury in early August that cost him the season, the Browns are down to a couple of rookie options to supplement their pass rush against the Steelers — a team susceptible to quarterback pressure so far this season.
Those two players are third-rounder Alex Wright, who has lined up for 38 percent of the team’s defensive snaps through two games, and seventh-rounder Isaiah Thomas, who has appeared on nine percent of the defensive snaps thus far.
Wright, Thomas Ready to ‘Step Up’ For Browns While Clowney Injured
Both Wright and Thomas spoke to the media on Monday about their opportunities to play meaningful minutes in a crucial contest for the Browns so early in their respective careers.
“It sucks. [Especially] something that’s so fluky, something that wasn’t supposed to happen,” Wright said of Clowney’s injury, per the Akron Beacon Journal. “But at the end of the day, somebody’s got to step up. We can’t sit back and hang our heads because he’s down. We’ve just got to look at it as he’s going to be all right, he’s going to be back. While he’s gone, though, somebody’s got to step up, somebody’s got to take his place and make plays.”
Thomas also lauded Clowney Monday, before sharing Wright’s sentiment about their dual responsibility heading into the matchup with the Steelers.
“As a young guy [seeing Clowney] get a strip-sack in a big moment in the game, it’s inspirational watching guys like that. ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’ That’s how you think,” Thomas said. “It sucks to have a vet down but, obviously, next man up. They brought me, Alex Wright, other D-ends here to come in and perform and play, not to sit down and just watch from the side.”