Veteran defensive tackle Andrew Billings will not suit up for the Cleveland Browns against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, with his absence going down as a healthy scratch.
Billings was initially slated to be the starter out of camp but the unexpected emergence of Malik McDowell changed that. Billings was criticized for being out of shape during mandatory minicamp and was not able to carve out a niche in the rotation, even with his big-bodied, run-stopping ability. He played 22 defensive snaps through the first five weeks of the season but seemed to gain some momentum with 21 snaps last week. Billings record his only tackle of the season last week.
Billings, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 328 pounds, sat out all of last season due to COVID-19 concerns. Billings collected 35 tackles and one sack as a starter with the Bengals in 2019. The 26-year-old had notched a below-average grade of 49.5 via Pro Football Focus and has collected just one sack.
The Browns added Sheldon Day to the active roster against the Cardinals, bringing him up from the practice squad. Day is in his sixth NFL season out of Notre Dame. Originally a fourth-round pick by Jacksonville in 2016, Day has appeared in 60 career games with the Jaguars (2016-17), 49ers (2017-19) and Colts (2020). Day initially joined the Browns practice squad in Week 17 in 2020.
Malik McDowell Keeps Impressing With Browns
While Billings has not been able to make his mark, McDowell has been extremely impressive, becoming a nearly every-down player. The Browns took a chance on the former first-round pick, who was the 35th overall pick by the Seahawks in 2017 draft but never played a down for the NFC West squad.
Shortly after the draft, he suffered what was thought to be a career-ending injury during an ATV accident. He later got in legal trouble and had been away from football since 2017.
The Browns were hopeful to be a contributor but, frankly, never imagined him being such a large part of the defense.
“I do not know if I ever let my mind go there just because there is such a process of getting him back in to football,” Browns defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. “You knew what you had as far as size and all that when he walked through the door and then just to see the progression, I saw somewhere he said yesterday that he has had his best couple weeks of practices, and that is true. He is getting better – his technique, his effort and everything. We will continue to see. Nothing really amazes me with him because he just keeps impressing every week.”
Browns Missing Starting Tackles Against Cardinals
The Browns has a scary long injury report this week but only tackles Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin will miss the game. They join Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb on the sideline, who was announced out earlier in the week with a calf injury.
In the absence of Wills and Conklin, the Browns will start Blake Hance and James Hudson III. Kareem Hunt, Demetric Felton and D’Ernest Johnson will pick up the slack in the run game.
The Cardinals are also missing some key pieces, including pass-rusher Chandler Jones and head coach Kliff Kingsbury.