Myles Garrett will be key for Cleveland Browns against Joe Burrow
Sunday, the Browns have to stop the Bengal Bomber, who is even more than ever the focal point of his team’s offense now that running back Joe Mixon is down with a foot injury. Make no mistake, Burrow is for real. He’s averaging 269.5 yards per game despite not having a great team around him. More importantly, he passes the eyeball test. He looks like the kid who won the Heisman while torching the Southeast Conference to the tune of 65 total touchdowns last season.
Perhaps the best way to stop Burrow is to disrupt him before the ball gets in the air. In the first game between the two teams, the difference was a strip-sack by Myles Garrett that led to a Browns touchdown. The Bengals may be starting back up Michael Jordan at left guard, meaning that he may be facing Garrett this week. If you remember the beating that the Incredible Hulk gave Loki in the first Avengers movie, it may be kind of like that.
Heroics from Garrett and the defensive line may be necessary because Burrow is capable of some Asgardian feats of his own if he can get the ball airborne. Burrow is deadly accurate with the vertical passes to the likes of Tyler Boyd and rookie Tee Higgins, who have become his primary targets, with superstar A.J. Green still a threat after 7 Pro Bowl seasons, though the past two seasons were marred by injuries.
John Ross, the unofficial Combine record holder with 4.22 speed, is considered “questionable” to play versus the Browns due to an illness, though he was able to practice earlier in the week.The Bengals also like Auden Tate, the former Florida State Seminole, all 6-foot-5 and 227 lbs of him, though he has had trouble staying healthy in the early going. Burrow has something to work with in the passing game — if he has time to throw, that is. Burrow will throw vertically if he has time.
The Bengals have become even more dependent on the vertical passing game due to injuries to tight end C.J. Uzomah, out for the season with an Achilles injury, and running back Joe Mixon, who is out with a foot injury. In Uzomah’s place, look for Drew Sample and Cethan Carter to be solid players, but not at the level of Uzomah.
Mixon will be replaced by a familiar nemesis to Browns fans in Giovani Bernard. While Mixon is more of a bruising running back, Bernard is more like former Brown Duke Johnson, able to make yards catching balls out of the backfield. But in recent years, the eight-year veteran’s rushing yardage has declined. He has not averaged over 4.0 yards per carry since 2017 when he averaged 4.4 yards per carry on 458 yards rushing while adding 359 receiving yards.
Anything is possible in the NFL, but it is difficult to envision Bernard taking over Mixon’s role as the bell cow. On the other hand, Burrow might find him more useful as a pass blocker and safety valve receiver, given that his life expectancy may only be about 2.5 seconds behind the line of scrimmage versus the Browns front four.
Last season, the Bengals averaged 17.4 points per game on their way to a 2-14-0 season. This season, they have improved significantly, to 21.5 points per game, with a 1-4-1 record so far. Burrow has made the Bengals into a threat, particularly with the deep strike capability. ou only need to watch him throw to see that he is accurate, armed, and very dangerous.
Defensively, so far they have given up 26.2 points per game, which is not very good. On the other hand, the Browns have given up 31.2 points per game, which is atrocious. On paper, the two teams are actually about even. Cleveland has done nothing to deserve to be a big favorite in an away game, except that the Bengals have some injuries that weaken them in ways that play to the Browns’ strengths.
Cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell, and Kevin Johnson are charged with the task of keeping up with Cincinnati’s talented wide receivers. The Browns are starting to get healthier in the defensive backfield, adding strong safety Ronnie Harrison who is recovered from a concussion suffered two weeks ago.
The other veteran strong safety, Karl Joseph, is questionable this week but undrafted rookie Jovante Moffatt got some playing time last week against the Steelers last week. Sheldrick Redwine will move back to his more natural free safety position, and Andrew Sendejo and Tavierre Thomas will be situational extra defensive backs. Cincinnati wide receivers can get open against the Browns defensive backs if Burrow has time to launch.
Hopefully, the deep strike will be blown up or redirected before the ball gets airborne. Burrow may be a rookie, but his ability demands respect or he is capable of beating a good defense.