Last week when the Browns defense got pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill it forced him into a pair of interceptions and bad decisions. When the defense didn’t get pressure, Tannehill was able to operate from a clean pocket and execute against the Browns secondary.
The key for the defense is to pressure and rattle Cousins, forcing him into bad decisions. Last week the defense only recorded one sack. The defense will need to bolster the pass rush in order to get Cousins off-balance and uncomfortable. The pass rushing group is short handed without rookie Carl Nassib, but young pass rushers Emmanuel Ogbah and Tyrone Holmes must step up and get to the quarterback.
“You just have to continue to do your job. Being a young team, I know they are definitely feeling that,” Danny Shelton said this week. “I don’t want to say it is stress, but at the same time, we are trying to work together and continue to communicate so we can grow as a young team.”
Another challenge for the defense will be to stop the running game. Last week the defense gave up 115 total rushing yards to Miami. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton knows the front seven must improve stopping the run this week.
“It presents a challenge really on all three levels to stop the run, to try to make them one-dimensional and then handle really one of the top passing games in the league right now,” Horton said this week.
Horton believes eliminating the run game will give the Browns defense a chance to make plays and rattle Cousins. If the Redskins run game is working early, it will open up play-action passes for Cousins and his receivers. The Redskins have a solid group of receivers that can exploit a secondary led by veteran speedster DeSean Jackson.
“Their offensive team as we look at them is very talented all over the place, from their receivers from (Redskins WR) DeSean Jackson up the field, you look at (Redskins WR) Pierre Garcon underneath being whether you call him a possession receiver or not but a savvy veteran. (Redskins WR Jamison) Crowder, he is a punt returner, he is a slot receiver,” Horton said when asked about Washington’s playmakers. “He took a low, screen pass 45-55 yards last week. They are talented. Their offensive line is very talented. (Redskins TE Jordan) Reed is probably the hottest tight end going right now in the league. Then Kirk Cousins, obviously, I think his performance last year warranted a huge contract.”
The defense will have its hands full containing this offense but the youth of the defense is ready for the challenge.
“Oh yeah, he is great at that. I love Coach Horton,” cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun said this week. “He does a good job of putting us in good positions to make plays and positions to help other people make plays. That starts throughout the week with all the things that we do in practice.”
If the defense can shut down the run, it will make Washington pass happy and force the inconsistent Cousins to beat you. Secondly, if the pass rush can get to Cousins and pressure his throws, it will again create plays to be made in the secondary for the Browns defense.
If the defense can shutdown the run and pressure Cousins, expect the Browns to have chances to pull of the victory on the road Sunday.