CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns will face quite the challenge from Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Everson Griffen.
And they will do so in the 2017 NFL International Series at Twickenham Stadium in London without the services of 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, who had season-ending surgery to repair a torn triceps tendon in his left arm earlier in the week.
“Tripled,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said of how many players the offense will throw at Griffen. “You can tell him that.”
Without Thomas, the Browns will turn to second-year blocker Spencer Drango, whom they selected out of Baylor University with the 168th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Behind Drango’s blocks, the Bears averaged 48.1 points, 326.7 rushing yards and 289.5 passing yards per game during the 2015 season. The Bears’ offense scored 625 points, rushed for 4,247 yards and passed for another 3,764 yards. Also, Baylor rushed for 41 touchdowns and threw for another 44 last fall.
Projected as a right tackle in the NFL, Drango cleared the way for two 1,000-yard rushers, as Shock Linwood led the Bears with 1,329 yards and 10 touchdowns on 196 carries, while junior running back Johnny Jefferson gained 1,000 yards and scored eight times in 2015.
“We’re playing against one of the best players in this league and we’ve lost one of our best players in the league at that position, so we understand what we’re dealing with, and we’ll do things to help Spencer,” Jackson said.
“There’s going to be times where they’re going to force us to make Spencer block him by himself. We all know that, so our quarterback’s aware. He’s going to have to get the ball out of his hands, and there’s times when he’s going to have to move away from certain things. That’s just the way this game’s played.”
On the season, Griffen has registered 28 total tackles, including 20 solo stops, and of those hits, nine have resulted in quarterback sacks and two have generated fumbles.
“He has unbelievable initial quickness,” Jackson said. “He’s very violent with his hands. He understands. I think he is very instinctive as a defensive end of kind of where the ball is going, so you can tell he studies tape extremely well, and he gets to the quarterback and he takes the quarterback down.
“That’s what he does, and he’s done it against every tackle that he’s played against this year, so I’m sure he’s feeling good about the opportunities, and we’ve got to do everything we can to slow him down and stop him.”
After spending eight of the last 12 quarters on the bench because of ineffectiveness and turnovers, rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer has been reinserted into the starting lineup.
In his first six NFL starts, Kizer completed 93 of his 179 attempts (51.9 percent) for 965 yards with three touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Additionally, Kizer has taken 12 sacks for 63 lost yards and holds a 47.8 quarterback rating.
And despite being without Thomas, Jackson is hopeful Kizer can lead the offense down the field, even when the Vikings bring heavy pressure.
“They have a good scheme,” Jackson said. “The guy that calls the defense is as good as there is in the league, so it’ll be tough, but it’s tough every week. To find a way to move the ball in this league is not easy, so we’ll find a way.”