The Browns will try to make their AFC North record 2-1 on Sunday as they face off against the Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium. This will be their final matchup against an AFC North opponent until Nov. 12, when they play the Ravens in Baltimore.
Cleveland will face a Baltimore defense that has unique speed and ability to get to the quarterback, as they have 12 sacks on the 2023 season. The Ravens defense has been effective in the first three weeks of the season, as they are currently sixth in defensive EPA and second in success rate. The team has also only allowed three touchdowns this season.
In Week 3, the Ravens faced the Colts and allowed an average of 3.9 yards per play. Through 16 drives, they held the Colts to just 22 points. The Colts’ sole touchdown came from a 73-yard drive, their only offensive drive of more than two first downs gained and the only drive of over 50 yards.
“They are a fast defense,” WR Amari Cooper said of the Ravens. “Every time you play a fast defense as an offense, you have to be on your P’s and Q’s because they are getting to the ball faster.”
One of the Ravens’ defensive stars is LB Roquan Smith, who is all over the field. He sacked Colts QB Gardner Minshew once, completed 13 tackles and only allowed one reception on three targeted passes against the Colts.
The Browns need to keep track of Smith on every play. He has played every defensive snap and has recorded double-digit tackles twice this season. Pro Football Focus has given Smith an overall grade of 88.1.
“Roquan is a great player,” G Joel Bitonio said. “In our meetings, we highlighted him because he runs the defense right now. We know he is going to be in there every play. You can see he makes adjustments. He can run through and blitz when he wants to.”
The Ravens defense has been impressive, but heading into Week 4, they’ve dealt with a number of injuries. CB Marlon Humphrey (foot) has yet to play this season, and did not participate in practice on Wednesday. S Marcus Williams (pectoral) has missed two games this season and was a limited participant on Wednesday for the Ravens.
OLB Odafe Oweh (ankle), OLB David Ojabo (ankle/knee) and S Kyle Hamilton also did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. S Ar’Darius Washington (chest) was added to the injured reserve on Sept. 19.
Due to a significant number of injuries, the defensive line was unable to stop Colts RB Zack Moss, who had a remarkable performance against Baltimore in the absence of RB Jonathan Taylor. Moss carried the ball 30 times, accumulating 122 yards and catching two passes for 23 yards and a touchdown.
The Browns offense will aim to exploit the Ravens’ injury-plagued defense. After a bounce-back week for the offense and the passing game, in which they finished with 289 total passing yards, one rush touchdown and two receiving touchdowns, the Browns will look to build on their progress as a unit.
RB Jerome Ford, who got the starting nod for the Browns once RB Nick Chubb was ruled out for the season, had two touchdowns against the Titans and was a threat in the passing game. On Sunday, Ford will have the same opportunity as Moss, who took advantage of the Ravens’ decimated defense in place of Taylor.
Despite the Ravens’ injuries, the Browns won’t take their backups for granted. Sunday’s game should still be a great divisional matchup that the Browns offense would like to build upon.
“They’re going to come fired up,” QB Deshaun Watson said. “Just because the guys starting secondary are not out there doesn’t mean that the backups that start now aren’t as good as those guys. We respect those guys. We respect all of them and the way they’re playing.”
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