The Texans defense had a day against the Jaguars. Though most of it, especially the Interceptions, can be attributed to the youthfulness of the Jaguars quarterback and the naiveté of their head coach, the Texans staff and defensive unit deserve credit for dictating the game.
That’s not something they can be allowed to do against the Browns. Defense will play an important role in this game, and it needs to be the Browns unit that sets the tone early and gets their offense back on the field.
Baker Mayfield’s growth in 2020 was a huge positive for his development as a leader of an NFL offense. He largely avoided uncomfortable situations where he was forced to throw, but when those situations emerged he still was able to deliver.
Notably against the Ravens last season Mayfield got the job done late, only for Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker to break hearts late. Luckily the Browns defense is much better equipped to avoid a shootout, and the defensive interior especially is equipped to dictate the game. Malik McDowell was excellent in his full debut last week, and could offer a brilliant interior option to pressure opponents, flanked by Jadeveon Clowney and superstar Myles Garrett.
For the opposition, the defensive interior might have had a nice day against the Jaguars, but face a much stronger unit in the Browns offensive line. They did a great job against a tough Chiefs front seven, and will look to pave the way for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to keep pounding the rock again this week.
The trenches are the real weakness of the Texans, and given the strength of the Browns at these positions perhaps the best way to set the tone early in this one is to try and utilize the strength in this matchup. Open up the game on both sides of the ball and take control before the Texans have the chance to turn it into a trap game.