How Cleveland Browns defend Le’Veon Bell will be biggest key vs. Jets
The New York Jets offense will be without Sam Darnold on Monday night, which means the Cleveland Browns will have to slow down Le’Veon Bell.
The Cleveland Browns and New York Jets matchup was expected to have a battle between the two highest drafted quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft: Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. But with Darnold out of the game, the Jets offense is going to have adjust, which likely means the offense running through Le’Veon Bell.
Bell is easily the best playmaker on the Jets offense, but he will become the focal point of the offense without Darnold under center. With Trevor Siemian as the signal caller against the Browns, Bell will likely shoulder most of the load of the offense, both as a runner and a receiver.
In his regular season debut with the Jets, Bell scored the Jets’ only offensive touchdown. Bell rushed for 60 yards on 17 carries and caught six receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown.
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It is clear that in Adam Gase’s offense, Bell will get plenty of touches. And Bell is a tough player to slow down because he has the speed and strength to break tackles in a variety of ways. His patient running style forces defenses to be gap responsible. If not, he can quickly create chunk plays. He also has the agility to be an efficient route runner to create space and make plays in the passing game.
Without Darnold running the offense, the Browns are going to need to focus on containing Bell as much as possible on Monday night. If they can eliminate the effectiveness of Bell, it could ultimately take its toll on the entire Jets offense.
Last week, the Browns defense had major problems against the Tennessee Titans running backs. The Browns defense allowed 123 rushing yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. Tennessee did not even break a long run, with their longest run going for 18 yards. They also allowed a Derrick Henry 75-yard touchdown reception after being overaggressive on a screen.
Cleveland’s inability to slow down the Titans rushing attack allowed Tennessee to abuse the Browns defense with play-action. If the Browns defense struggles to slow down Bell, who is a much more dynamic running back compared to Henry, Cleveland could have the same problem against the Jets.
But where the Jets can take advantage of the Browns defense is using Bell as a receiver out of the backfield. He is a better receiver compared to Henry, so New York can test Cleveland’s discipline on screens, but can also use Bell in more ways as a receiver compared to the Titans. So the Browns will have to find ways limit Bell’s effectiveness as a receiver.
Despite the Browns preferring to keep an extra defensive back on the field, they will have to matchup with New York’s slot receiver, Jamison Crowder. Crowder paced New York’s passing offense, catching 14 receptions for 99 yards. He is obviously a large part of Gase’s offense, so Cleveland’s nickel corner will have to be following Crowder all game.
Without having the extra defensive back to keep an eye on Bell, the Browns will have to rely on one of their safeties or linebackers to limit Bell in the passing game. But with Bell’s athleticism, it could prove to be difficult for a linebacker or safety to cover the running back.
The Browns could use their zone coverage to keep every short throw, including Bell’s routes, in front of them. But that could prove costly if the Jets can gain yardage on most of their short completions.
Steve Wilks and the Browns defense will need to find a way to limit Bell’s effectiveness in the passing game. Bell could help get Siemian in the game and make him more comfortable to make passes. Depending on how well the Browns can contain Bell could become the story of Monday night’s game. If Cleveland can keep Bell in check, they should be able to rebound from last week’s dud. If not, they could be in for another long game.