The Cleveland Browns should have a quality game defensively in Week 3
The first two games of the campaign for the Cleveland Browns haven’t produced good overall results defensively. Cleveland got shredded by Lamar Jackson in Week 1 through the air in a drubbing, conceding a near-perfect passer rating, and rookie Joe Burrow had a QBR of 76.8 in Week 2.
Now, the Orange and Brown offense didn’t help the defense out a ton in Week 1 at the Baltimore Ravens, and the defense has had its share of injuries. And to their credit, the Cincinnati Bengals, while they have a long way to go, do have a nice stable of playmakers, such as A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, rookie Tee Higgins and back Joe Mixon.
On the plus side for the Browns, the defensive line was impressive in Week 2, and Sheldon Richardson, Myles Garrett, and Jordan Elliott came up big. Though the Bengals offensive line is far from stellar and Burrow threw the ball 61 times with how the game shook out, the Browns as a unit had eight quarterback hits and three sacks.
Cleveland, fortunately on the defensive side, has defended the run very well to this point. And while them giving up 38 and then 30 points were anything but ideal, the defense overall has been a positive considering their injuries. Nonetheless, opposing teams have gotten their connections a bunch in between the numbers, and though linebacker injuries/new faces haven’t helped, the Browns have struggled to get off the field on third down.
Cleveland’s conceded an opponent third-down success rate of 48.3 percent thus far, which is good for 22nd in the league, per Pro Football Reference. It’s only been two games and percentages are going to be way higher than they will end up being, but it’s evident that the Browns need to be more effective on third down as a unit.
Them potentially having more depth perhaps in the coming weeks won’t hurt in that realm, though. While both are very young and have a ways to go, it wouldn’t kill the Browns to have Mack Wilson and Greedy Williams able to go this week, and rookie Jacob Phillips could feasibly make some plays, and possibly as a blitzer.
It’d be nice for veteran Kevin Johnson to be in the lineup for work as a slot corner, in particular, also, and those pieces could seemingly be a go in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team, per Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski and as h/t ESPN’s Jake Trotter.
In any case, for Cleveland in this upcoming matchup against a visiting Washington, they should be primed for third-down success, to essentially take what DPD’s Greg Newland highlighted a step further.
The Cleveland Browns should get off the field more effectively in Week 3.
For the Browns, this Football Team offense is frankly, not loaded with playmakers and they weren’t the reason they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. Terry McLaurin is clearly Dwayne Haskins’ favorite target to go to through the air, but Denzel Ward, who blanketed Green last game, as DPD’s Grant Puskar hit on, should help out a bunch you’d think against McLaurin.
Now in terms of others that could get into the act, also returner Steven Sims Jr. definitely qualifies as a burner, as evidenced by him being able to generate space out of his breaks and he’s had 17.2 yards per catch through two games. Sims closed last season strong, too.
What is the key here, however, is that Washington’s running game leaves plenty to be desired, as while rookie Antonio Gibson has shown some promise with 91 yards on 22 carries and a TD, Washington’s offensive line is another leaky one, like Cincinnati’s. The Football Team ground attack, in a general sense, won’t strike much fear into Cleveland’s defensive front, and Karl Joseph, who made some nice plays last week, could seemingly get a fair amount of in-box work.
And if the Browns offense can build some on last week’s performance, albeit against a better Washington defense but one that hasn’t faced the Nick Chubb-Kareem Hunt run game/hopefully play-action off it, Cleveland’s defense should benefit on third down.
Moreover, although Cleveland’s had their troubles defending the middle passing-wise, as DPD’s Greg Newland alluded to, from my perspective, the defensive line should have a very favorable matchup, and that should lead to much more third-down success. Per Pro Football Focus, the Washington Football Team has conceded the third-most QB pressures through two weeks.
So Richardson, Garrett, Elliott and company should be able to take advantage in obvious passing situations, which could very well come often with a running game that’s hardly Cleveland’s. That should result in a tough go of it, seemingly, for Haskins, whose only had 401 yards thus far and has been sacked on a whopping 9.9 percent of his dropbacks.
For the Cleveland Browns on the defensive side, they should be very successful on third down in Week 3, and a key part of that is the defensive line should be especially dominant.
And while converted QB-turned tight end Logan Thomas has shown some rapport with Haskins, some reinforcements could seemingly help in that regard, and it’s not as if Thomas is nearly the threat of McLaurin and Sims, in terms of chunks, anyhow. Perhaps Ronnie Harrison could help on him in zone and plus, as a side note, let’s not gloss over that Sims, who is only listed at 176 pounds, while definitely fast, has also fumbled twice in 2020.
To further drive it home, this week against a Washington offense that’s dead-last in third-down conversation rate (30.0 percent) and has had tied for the third-fewest first downs, per ESPN, Cleveland should get off the field defensively.
A 10-day rest period shouldn’t hurt, either, and perhaps the Browns defense could get something to build on after hopefully a convincing Week 3 victory. We’ll see.