The Cleveland Browns decided to part ways with veteran defensive tackle Andrew Billings on Saturday, bringing to an end his underwhelming tenure with the team.
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 never 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 against the Chargers.
He had some scattered snaps since — 11 against Denver and 18 against Pittsburgh. However, Billings was a healthy scratch against the Bengals last Sunday and it’s clear the Browns feel like they can get by without their big run-stuffer.
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 47.5 via Pro Football Focus and has collected just one tackle.
Malik McDowell Surged Into Starting Role 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 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 in October. “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.”
Myles Garrett Dealing With Foot Injury
When it comes to the Browns defensive line, NFL sack leader Myles Garrett is the engine that makes it go. Garrett has 12 sacks this season but is dealing with a foot injury as the Browns head to New England to take on the Patriots. Garrett missed some practice time this week but insisted that it’s nothing to worry about.
“I am a little bit sore. I am good. Just kind of rolled my foot weird in the game,” Garrett told reporters on Friday, November 12. “It was really out of an abundance of caution. I probably could have gone the last two days, but there was no point of fighting through pain to practice when I can get a good practice today and get in the playbook to know exactly what I am going to do and go out there fresh. I do not think I have any lingering effects.”
The Browns are a 2.5-point underdog on the road against the Patriots.