In the first meeting with Baltimore, Cleveland surrendered over 100 yards to tight end Dennis Pitta. Even though Pitta does not strike the average football fan as a major receiving threat, his dominance in Week 2 should, in hindsight, come as no surprise. Cleveland’s struggles against sizable tight ends has become a recurring theme this season.
Slowing down Pitta will be quite a challenge for a unit of linebackers who have simply not covered tight ends well enough all year. Christian Kirksey and Demario Davis will once again be the keys, as their pass coverage can change the dynamic of a drive. Safety Derrick Kindred may also be critical against Pitta if the Browns do indeed decide to bring more heat on quarterback Joe Flacco.
But it’s not just Pitta that is capable of taking over the game by controlling the middle of the field. The Ravens also have Crockett Gillmore, a tight end who had a spectacular game in Cleveland last season. The 6-foot 6, 260-pound 24-year-old shares similar skill sets with Pitta, and can surprise a team as a reinforcement tight end.
Though these two big targets may seem to be the most dangerous over the middle of the field, the Browns can’t afford to sleep on fullback Kyle Juszczyk. This bruising 248-pound Medina, Ohio native can slip out of the backfield in a hurry and do damage against possible tacklers downfield.
Cleveland must control the middle of the field defensively in order to have a chance to win this game. Week after week, they are struggling in this area. Reversing this trend would be an enormous step on their way to relevance once again.