Is it just me or do the Cleveland Browns seem to always be there after the Ravens get their butts handed to them? Last year, after the Texans gave us a whooping in Texas, the Browns were there the next week to cheer us up. The year before that, the Chargers handed us a shocker in San Diego, the next week, who else but the Browns?
All jokes aside, this is the first year I wouldn’t count the Browns out. A 29 year old sophomore quarterback isn’t ideal, but the pieces around him are what make me slightly worried. The Ravens need a rebound game after the thrashing Peyton Manning and the Broncos gave them last week, so here what to look for.
Revamped Run-Defense Vs. Trent Richardson
The Broncos ran the ball 23 times for 65 yards against the Ravens. The Browns ran it 13 times against the Dolphins. When you think about their offenses, you’d think it’d be quite the opposite. Regardless, the Browns will be testing the ‘new and improved’ Ravens defensive line with Trent Richardson, who has given the Ravens a lot of trouble in the past. Richardson has more rushing yards against the Ravens than any other team he’s faced, impressive for his short career so far. Expect a lot of running and grinding from Cleveland against the Ravens.
Ray Rice Vs. A Brown Defense
Alternatively, the running back on the other side of the ball, Ray Rice, is also looking at a big game. Rice also has more yards against the Browns than any other teams he’s faced, averaging 92.2 yards per game against them. While Rice tends to have good games against the Browns, they’ve made a conscious effort to upgrade their defense this past offseason, and after the Dolphins put on an aerial show, Flacco and company may be looking to do the same. Expect more running than last week with Flacco testing the Browns secondary.
A Pick-On And Pissed-Off Secondary Vs. A Gordon-less Receiving Corps.
Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended the first two games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Everyone thought that left no reliable receivers on the roster (don’t even say Greg Little, you’ll make me laugh), until they traded for Davone Bess and Jordan Cameron happened. Cameron had nine receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown last week. The Ravens secondary let Peyton Manning throw a record-tying 7 touchdown passes and 400+ yards, needless to say they’ll be looking for revenge. Look for Cameron being used like Julius Thomas was last week, trying to take advantage of the Ravens tackling miscues they had trying to tackle big bodies.
Canty/Upshaw/Suggs/Dumervil Vs. Joe Thomas And Some Turnstiles
The Ravens pass rush did much better than expected last week against two of the best tackles in the league, sacking Peyton Manning three times. That being said, I’m expecting a big game for the Ravens’ pass rush against a Browns offensive line that let Quarterback Brandon Weeden get sacked 6 times and hit 16 times. Joe Thomas may be an All-Pro, but he’s only one of five guys protecting Weeden.
Marlon Brown Vs. Buster Skrine
Jacoby Jones is out, Aaron Mellette was placed on IR, and Brandon Stokley is really only effective out of the slot. That leaves everyone’s favorite undrafted wide receiver, Marlon Brown, to line up on the opposite side of the field of Torrey Smith. If anything can be taken away from the Browns game against the Dolphins, is that the Browns have no quality cornerbacks behind Joe Haden, who only allow Mike Wallace to catch one pass which opened up the field for Brian Hartline, who had a monster game with 9 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown (I sat him in fantasy football last week., I still get woozy thinking about it).
Expect Marlon Brown and the Ravens’ tight ends to get a lot of targets.