CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns’ depth on the defensive line already was tested because of injuries to end Olivier Vernon, but it will be even more so from here on out after Pro Bowl pass rusher Myles Garrett was suspended indefinitely.
Garrett will miss at least the rest of the 2019 season as he was indefinitely banned for his actions in a brawl where he swung a helmet and connected with the head of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the waning seconds of last Thursday’s 21-7 Browns win at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
“Myles was having an excellent season and it is hard to replace somebody with that kind of production, but we have some guys that are mentally and physically up to the challenge,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. “I have total confidence that they will give us everything they have and produce when needed.”
Linebacker Joe Schobert added, “Myles is a once-in-a-generation player, so obviously, not having a guy like that on the field is going to be hard, but I think guys like Chad (Thomas) showed up in the game last week with a sack, should’ve had an interception.
“We’ve got others guys that can make plays, and as long as everybody on the defense knows their job, knows their role and their assignment, I have full confidence in everybody who’s going to be out there.”
Sixth-year defensive end Chris Smith stands to see a substantial increase in playing time on defense after playing in mainly a special teams capacity in eight games this season.
In 61 career games with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals and Browns, Smith has registered 68 total tackles, including 47 solo stops and 21 assists, with 8.5 sacks, six passes defended and three forced fumbles.
“I think Chris is ready to step up and have more production for us,” Kitchens said. “He needs to continue to put his best foot forward and get more and more production. He will get more and more opportunities.
“Chris’ effort is very good. His attention to detail needs to be better. His assignments need to be better. I think sometimes, you do not find out about guys until they are thrust into action with a more prominent role, and we will find out.”
Along with Smith, second-year lineman Chad Thomas could see more time at defensive end, as he started the last two games in Vernon’s place.
After playing in just four games during his rookie season in 2018, Thomas has appeared in all 10 games for the Browns this year, where he has registered 13 total tackles, including eight solo stops and five assists with three sacks and one pass defended.
“Chad’s reps have picked up since Olivier has been out,” Kitchens said. “They have continued to go up. We just need him to continue doing his job and do it well. Like I said, everyone needs to do their job and just better with a sense of urgency and a sense of detail, and we will be okay.”