Browns run defense bracing for … Terrance West?
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns have the league’s best run defense but may face a surprising challenge this week when they take on the Baltimore Ravens.
The Cleveland Browns have the No. 1 run defense in the entire NFL.
Let’s repeat that: the Browns, a team that hasn’t been able to stop the run seemingly since nose tackle Bob Golic was plugging up the middle in the 1980s, has the league’s best run defense.
Sure, the season is only one week old, but it still is worth pointing out, especially since it was Le’Veon Bell, who is coming off a 1,200-yard season in just 12 games, of the Pittsburgh Steelers that the Browns shut down on opening weekend.
The defense may not have much time to enjoy its good fortune, however, as they will face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens come into the game having ripped the Cincinnati Bengals for 157 yards in Week 1 and the Browns are concerned about Ravens running back Terrance West.
Wait, Terrance West? The same running back who rushed for a decent, but not spectacular 80 yards against the Bengals? The one who has just a single 100-yard game in his last 38 games played?
Apparently so, according to linebacker Christian Kirksey via clevelandbrowns.com:
"“T. West is a hard runner. He came in with me in our draft year in 2014. He can make you miss. He is not the lightest guy. He is kind of heavy-set. He is strong. He can catch out of the backfield. T. West is definitely a good running back. It is up to us to eliminate him from making big plays and becoming a spark on the defense so we will make sure that we will be prepared for him.”"
While it does seem a bit odd, the two-back attack of West and Javorius Allen did combine to rush for 151 yards against the Bengals, so there may be something to keeping an eye on Baltimore’s ground game.
The Browns look to be at full health – minus defensive end Myles Garrett, of course – on defense as defensive tackle Danny Shelton was a full participant in practice on Thursday, according to the latest injury report.
The biggest thing the Browns may have going for them on defense, however, is defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has made a noticeable difference on the unit, especially when it comes to stopping the run, Kirksey told the team’s website:
"“Basically, Gregg since Day 1, he came in talking about how we wanted to defend the run because last year we were terrible in stopping the run. We made a special emphasis on doing that first, making that a priority because when you stop the run, that builds an attitude. Gregg came in and he changed the culture, changed guys’ mindsets. The defense that he has us playing is aggressive and puts the guys in the best position to be in their gap, to make plays and hunt down the ball carrier. It is just all really a mindset with the guys that we have on this team. We are striving to still be in that category with a run stopping defense.”"
Even though they were not able to pull out the win in Week 1, it was refreshing to see the Browns finally be able to shut down an opposing running attack. It may be another tough task this week, but at least the Ravens don’t have anyone like Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown to deal with.
Next: Grading the Browns offensive line after Week 1
If the Browns can repeat their defensive performance against the run again on Sunday against the Ravens, Browns fans may be celebrating just the second victory Monday of head coach Hue Jackson’s tenure come the following morning.