Cleveland Browns have the defensive personnel to contain Lamar Jackson
The Cleveland Browns defense will have a tough task containing Lamar Jackson, but they have the personnel to do so.
The Cleveland Browns enter Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens in as close to a must-win as there could be this early in the season. With a win, the Browns would be right at the top of the AFC North. But a loss would put them behind the eight ball in the middle of their most difficult stretch of the season.
The expectations for Cleveland this season was to be at the top of the AFC North and attempt to win a division title for the first time since 1989. But a 1-2 start has created questions about if they can reign supreme in the AFC North by the end of the season.
In order to become the top dog in the division, the Browns are going to have to knock off their division rivals. They will get their first opportunity to do so Sunday when they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens.
More from Dawg Pound Daily
- How the Browns could maximize Nick Chubb in 2023
- Can Deshaun Watson get to Patrick Mahomes level for Cleveland Browns?
- 3 Cleveland Browns who should see an expanded role in 2023 and 1 who should not
- Is Marcus Davenport on the Browns radar in 2023?
- 5 Free agents from Super Bowl LVII Cleveland Browns should target
The Ravens have become a hot-topic team in the NFL because of their offense being spearheaded by Lamar Jackson. Jackson turned the Ravens season around in 2018, helping create a dynamic offense with his speed and rushing ability. So much so that the Ravens rebuilt their entire offensive playbook this offseason to tailor it to Jackson’s strengths.
Jackson’s legs are obviously his biggest strength. But he is showing off his arm in 2019 and making several accurate throws all over the field, something he struggled with his rookie season. Now that Jackson is showing the potential of being a true dual-threat, NFL caliber quarterback, it is going to create some problems for defenses. They have to be smart on the edges to contain Jackson’s scrambling ability, but also aggressive enough to pressure him so he can’t sit in the pocket waiting for a window to throw into open up.
But for the Browns on Sunday, they have the personnel to contain Jackson’s talent as much as possible, especially on the defensive line. On the edges, both Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon boast a speed and power combo that helps them gain leverage on offensive tackles. They can get upfield and go around the tackles using their speed, but they have the power to push the tackles into the pocket. And if Jackson does get loose on the edge, they have enough speed to potentially catch Jackson before he makes too big of a gain.
Cleveland’s signing of Sheldon Richardson in the offseason is already paying dividends. Both Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi have been tasked with handling double teams, but are still managing to create pressure up the middle. They have forced pockets to collapse up the middle, forcing quarterbacks to move and not allow them to step up and deliver throws to their receivers.
The Browns defensive front has been able to keep Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley at bay over the past two weeks. Although they are not quarterbacks, they are both patient runners who can stretch a defense. But the Browns front maintained their responsibilities and kept them from breaking big plays, neither on the edge nor up the middle.
Jackson’s running ability will be more difficult to control because he can break a big run on a designed pass. But Steve Wilks has been able to design good game plans back-to-back weeks to put his front in good positions to make plays.
If Jackson does break contain and gets to the edge, the Browns do have the speed necessary at the second-level with Mack Wilson and Joe Schobert, who both can get sideline-to-sideline. The biggest concern is if Wilson will over pursue plays, which has hindered his play so far. And the Browns could also decide to use their extra defensive back on the field to spy Jackson as much as possible.
The Browns will not be getting much healthier in the secondary this week, so they could have some trouble against the Ravens receivers. The Browns will need to manage the speed of Marquise Brown, who has emerged as a lethal weapon for the Ravens offense, with their backup secondary.
It may be easier said than done, but Cleveland has the personnel needed to prevent a big game from Jackson. Sunday will be a big test for the Browns defense, but a test they should be ready for when they take the field.