Cleveland Browns: 5 keys to the home opener vs. Ravens
Defensively, the Browns will have their hands full with a well run Baltimore offense that scored 30 or more points in both meetings last season. Considering both the Ravens’ strengths offensively and the Browns’ weaknesses defensively, it could be safely assumed Baltimore will dial up a good deal of running plays, especially in the opening quarter.
Speedy back Justin Forsett will get the major workload, though second and third backs Javorius Allen and former Brown Terrance West will also get carries. If the Browns are to improve on their opening week run defense, they will have to do so by not over pursuing the running backs. This was Cleveland’s downfall many times last week against Ryan Matthews, and the defense is once again susceptible to the same fate against a similar back this week.
Browns defenders, specifically rushers in the form of defensive tackles or outside linebackers, too often get closed off by offensive linemen in the backfield, creating mammoth holes in the middle. This is due partially to the lack of size on Cleveland’s front seven, but also to the dangerous mentality which the Browns have not yet corrected of over pursuit, which is brought about by lack of discipline.
Of course, the result of over pursuit can be devastating gains on the ground. This is bad enough, as much like last week, it will help the Ravens control the clock and time of possession. In addition to all of this though, it would make the Browns more hesitant to bring pressure, and keep their front seven more contained to the middle of the field. This would open up deep passing opportunities vertically for Joe Flacco, as his weapons are plenteous. Mike Wallace, Steve Smith Sr., and Kamar Aiken are all threats to do damage to a shaky Cleveland secondary.
No matter where the Ravens decide to take their offensive game plan, the most fundamental key for Cleveland to counter it is by stopping their running game. When this happens, the Browns are put in more favorable situations based on down-and-distance, as well as flexibility when it comes to defensive looks. In order to stop the run, the biggest key for the Browns is to correct their habit of over pursuing running backs leading to gaping holes up the middle.