Dawg Days is a weekly feature by Chris McNeil on the Cleveland Browns. The Three Deep section tackles facets of the Browns’ upcoming game from all sides — advantages, disadvantages, and a final view on the contest.
Last Sunday we all set our clocks back. The Browns defense went a little further, setting them all the way back to 2007. That was the last time the Browns defense pitched a shutout — beating the Bills 8-0 in an absolute blizzard (I simply love when Browns-Bills games are played in winter conditions!)
How long ago was that?
- The first iPhone premiered that year.
- Bob Barker was hosting his last Price is Right.
- Britney Spears had just cut her hair (remember that?)
- The Sopranos was in its final season and Mad Men was just premiering.
Seems like an eternity ago.
It also seems to be an eternity ago since the Browns last had Deshaun Watson healthy and ready to go at quarterback. In a surprise move last week, Watson and the Browns announced he was healthy and ready to start on Sunday and would be the starter moving forward — thus answering the biggest question we had. (A surprise to me, if you read last week’s column.)
In the game on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, Watson looked rusty in his first two drives. He also looked confused and his throws resembled buckshot — throws hitting receivers in a scatter pattern. After those two drives, though, he seemed to settle in. Before the half he delivered a dime to Amari Cooper for 49 yards that excited the stadium and caused the fans to let out a collective (and audible) sigh of relief.
Of course, the Browns didn’t leverage a trio of first round draft picks and $230 million guaranteed for Watson to beat the Cardinals. They did it so they could compete with the best in both the division and conference — and no team right now is hotter than the rival Baltimore Ravens.
😈 it’s Ravens SZN
Ravens ascend to No. 1: https://t.co/8wiYCsNUr0
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 8, 2023
The Ravens are coming in at 7-2 after dismantling the Seahawks on Sunday 37-3. In their last four games they have steamrolled opponents to the tune of a 130-49 combined score. The last loss for the Ravens came in a surprising loss to the Steelers all the way back in Week 5.
This week the Browns opened on Tipico as a +5.5 underdog, later moving to +6 against those Ravens on the road in Baltimore.
The Three Deep
The Browns defense has been absolutely cooking this season and last week was no exception. They surrendered only 58 total yards in front of the home crowd. Rookie signal caller Clayton Tune was overmatched by Jim Schwartz and company in his first career start. The ground game was equally stymied, as Tune led all rushers with 28 yards on the ground while the three-headed “monster” of Keaontay Ingram, Rondale Moore, and Tony Jones Jr combined for 13 rushing yards at less than a yard per carry on average. The Browns man defense in coverage and stout rush up front simply overmatched the Cardinals.
One of the budding trends for this defense is in the takeaway game. The Browns have registered at least one turnover in each of the last vie games and had multiple turnovers in each of the last three games. Last week they caused three turnovers against the Cardinals as Sione Takitaki, Denzel Ward, and Shelby Harris each came away with the ball once.
The Browns defense has been absolutely cooking this season and last week was no exception.
The Ravens are near the middle of the league in turnovers but are second worst in the league in fumbles, as teams have ripped and recovered the ball from them nine times this season. For his part, QB Lamar Jackson has fumbled the ball a total of 10 times this season while turning it over a total of six. If the Browns can be active and physical with Lamar and get him to cough up the ball a few times on Sunday, it would set up the offense to cash in on short field situations and take some heat off Deshaun Watson.
The biggest threat the Ravens have is in Jackson. In the first meeting this season he had four TDs — two by air and two on the ground en route to a 28-3 thrashing of the Browns in Cleveland.
Look for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (JOK) to have a big role in the defensive game plan this week for the Browns in trying to stop him. Lamar Jackson has been a chronic problem for the Browns and most of the NFL over his career with his dual-threat ability. JOK was drafted in the second round of the 2021 out of Notre Dame specifically to stop QBs such as Jackson or Patrick Mahomes or even Josh Allen who can throw and run the ball effectively.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah: 14 tackles for loss/no gain this season
Tied 1st in the NFL 💪 pic.twitter.com/f50ATpjTQF
— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) November 8, 2023
Last week against the Seahawks, Jackson completed 81 percent of his passes to take over the NFL lead in completion percentage at 71.5 percent. Couple that with the league-leading 440 rushing yards from a QB and you have a nightmare for opposing defenses.
JOK will be tasked with the shadow role. He will be mirroring Jackson on passes and corralling him before he can hit the gas and take off out of the backfield. If JOK is successful in setting the edge when Jackson takes off, he will allow the capable Browns secondary to make plays behind him.
This week will be the last meeting for these two squads in the regular season, with both vying for control of the brutally competitive AFC North.
The Ravens destroyed the Browns team without Deshaun Watson back in Week 4. That was the game where he was a late scratch, leaving Dorian Thompson-Robinson to come in with almost no preparation. With Watson at QB — and the team comfortable behind him — look for the Browns to rally against the Ravens.
It hasn’t been an eternity since the Browns last beat the Ravens in Baltimore — it was only 2019 — but everything since about 2020 has felt like an eternity. The Browns get it done on Sunday in Baltimore.
Prediction: Browns 24-20
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