Everson Griffen: Browns Replacement Left Tackle 'is a Little Slower'

Griffen has established himself as a star and is in the prime of his career. (Photo credit: Cumulus Media)

Perhaps the best matchup of the Minnesota Vikings-Cleveland Browns game was going to be Everson Griffen and Joe Thomas, with an edge-rusher on a sack streak taking on a perennial All-Pro left tackle.

Unfortunately, Thomas’ tricep injury will end his incredible streak of consecutive starts and backup Spencer Drango will be playing in his stead.

Griffen had a chance to speak to the media about the changed matchup and his thoughts on the matter.

“I really wanted to go up against Joe Thomas. You know he’s one of the best in the game, and I like going up against the best because that’s where you make a big name for yourself,” he said.

In the span of two minutes, he reiterated five times that he was looking forward to a game against Thomas and his genuine disappointment bled through each one of his answers about the game.

While Thomas represents what would have been one of the biggest challenges in Griffen’s career, there is another difficulty in going up against a player he’s never seen play tackle before.

Last year, with Washington Redskins Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams suspended, Griffen lined up against undrafted free agent Ty Nsekhe. On paper, it was the perfect opportunity to generate more pressure and add to his sack tally.

Unfortunately, he ended that game without a sack, and according to Pro Football Focus, only logged two total hurries — and only one credited to Nsekhe.

When asked what his film study plan was for a tackle he didn’t have much film on, Griffen was candid.

“I think he had 15 plays playing tackles so I watched the 15 plays like three or four times… five times, six times just to get a little tendencies on him,” he explained.

“You know, he’s a guy that should be playing guard, he’s a little slower so I’m just going to be using my gift; that’s my get-off and my speed and go out there and help my team win.”

Drango was indeed projected to play guard coming out of Baylor, and he was listed as the backup at right guard on their website — though he did play tackle in college and was an All-American team selection in both 2014 and 2015, winning the Big 12’s Offensive Lineman of the year award both of those years.

In his 18 pass protection snaps last week, Drango allowed a hit and a hurry according to PFF — a pressure rate that puts him among the bottom of last week’s performers.

With a new left tackle and a rookie quarterback lining up under center, Griffen’s mentality is aggressive. When asked how he was approaching the game, Griffen summarized it with one word: Hunt.

“Hunt. Stop the run, make them one-dimensional and hunt. You know, any time you get to put your hand on the ground and rush the passer, you get your offense more opportunities to score touchdowns. At the end of the day, once they get in a passing situation, we gotta hunt the quarterback.”

That kind of aggressiveness has allowed him to challenge Jim Marshall for the team’s consecutive game sack streak record, a record he could break this week with a sack in his eighth game.

Unfortunately, that aggressiveness has also engendered four defensive offsides penalties — three of which were accepted. One of those penalties wiped out a third-down stop against the Chicago Bears, who drove down the field for a touchdown on the drive.

Griffen was characteristically candid about that as well. “Sometimes,” he went on, “I feel like I watch too much of the center, so sometimes I move off the center’s hands, or something like that, get a tendency. Sometimes I just over guess and I jump offsides.  I shouldn’t be doing it; I can’t have it, I can’t do it.

“In a big-time situation, if I do jump offsides and hurt our team, they could get a first down or somebody else, they could get a sack, or an interception, or a forced fumble and then I jumped offsides and the play doesn’t count, so I can’t do that at all. I gotta be more locked in and focused, watch the ball and not listen to the quarterback.”

Odds are that Griffen will have a big impact on the game, and though he’s not taking the Browns lightly, his presence should be felt.

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