3 matchups the Cleveland Browns must control to beat Jacksonville

• Slowing down the 'other' Josh Allen

• Z picking up the slack

• The chess match inside of the chess match

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns / Lauren Leigh Bacho/GettyImages
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Matchup No. 2: Za’Darius Smith vs Anton Harrison

Cleveland's defensive line hasn't been their usual disruptive selves the last couple of weeks. It's no coincidence that their defense has struggled during their two-game road trip and that the Browns defensive line failed to record a sack over those that same stretch. The D-line is the engine that drives this defense and if they can't turn it around, then it is likely that Jim Schwartz’ unit will continue to struggle.

It's also no coincidence that the recent defensive slide aligns with Myles Garrett injuring his left shoulder. While Garrett has been able to gut through the injury to remain on the field, it's undeniable that the injury has limited the All-Pro edge rusher’s effectiveness. The Browns need someone to step up while Garrett battles through his injury.

Enter edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. The onus to pick up the slack left behind by Garrett’s injury falls directly into Smith’s lap this week. Entering week 14, Smith has only recorded 2.5 sacks on the season. Considering that Smith has reached double-digit sack numbers in three of the last four seasons, his current sack total is certainly lackluster.

Smith will be facing Anton Harrison, a rookie at right tackle for Jacksonville. Harrison was a first-round selection for Jacksonville out of the University of Oklahoma. This is a matchup that the Browns need Smith to dominate.

The bottom line is it cannot always be up to Garrett to do all the heavy lifting. As Jim Schwartz pointed out in his press conference this past Thursday, this defense is at its best when they can generate pressure and sacks organically with their front four and not have to rely on blitzing to get the job done. While Garrett could still prove to be his usual dominate self, the time for Smith to turn up the heat and get home on opposing quarterbacks is now.