CLEVELAND — When asked to describe Washington’s defensive front seven, only two words came to mind for Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield: “Game Wreckers.” Those game wreckers, led by #2 overall pick Chase Young, are pacing the NFL with 11 sacks through 2 weeks and are enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the most stoic quarterbacks. They were even able to take down Kyler Murray, one of the league’s most elusive signal callers, 3 times on Sunday.
Washington will have its work cut out for it with Cleveland’s O-Line. The unit didn’t allow a sack against Cincinnati despite playing on short rest last Thursday (Sept 17) and only gave up two sacks despite playing from behind all game against a dominate Baltimore defense. Young’s 2.5 sacks has the rookie tied for the league lead and the Cleveland O-Line knows their job starts with stopping Number-99. Browns rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills, one of the men tasked with stopping Young & company, called the rookie phenom “a freak of nature.” Wills went on to say “You do not see a lot of guys like him around the league. He just has a lot of size and ability and a lot of speed and power, which is a good combination of everything you need.” Pressure is even more important against Cleveland’s receiving corps is led by former-LSU teammates Odell Beckham, Jr and Jarvis Landry, both capable of huge days.
Pressure alone won’t beat Cleveland and Washington knows they will have to account for a Cleveland running game featuring the two headed monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The dynamic tandem of Chubb and Hunt is so dangerous because both backs are capable of scoring from anywhere on the field in any play. Washington head coach Ron Rivera knows how huge it is for the Browns offense to have the luxury of those two backs saying “It gives a boost to the offense — especially the offensive line — when you’ve got a guy that all you need to do is give him a crack. They’ve got two guys that can do that.”
Second year quarterback Dwayne Haskins is tasked with trying to get Washington’s offense going sooner this week after failing to put any points on the scoreboard in the first half of either game this season. The former-Buckeye’s focus this week is on sustaining drives and always moving the offense forward saying “The biggest thing is just trusting the play, playing the play out and not letting the last play affect the new play and just focusing on what my reads are and not trying to bypass a 1 or 2-yard completion that could be a first down and try to throw a 15, 14-yard curl route.” Haskins summed his focus up, saying he’s “just trying to make sure the play and completion game moves us down the field.”
Haskins has already shown definite chemistry with Terry McLaurin this season, connecting on 12 of 17 targets for 176 yards and a touchdown. The key will be getting that connection going in the first half. Rookie RB Antonio Gibson has led the team in rushing yards both games so far totaling 91 yards on just 22 carries for an average of 4.1 yds/carry. Gibson, and the run game in general, needs to be involved more early to help keep Washington drives alive and spell the defense to keep them operating at a high level.
It doesn’t help that Haskins will be without the help of his best offensive lineman, Brandon Scherff. The 3-time Pro Bowler sprained his MCL in Week 2 and is expected to miss 3-5 weeks. He has been placed on the IR but due to 2020 rules, he is eligible to return to the active roster after just 3 weeks rather than the usual 6 weeks. This is a contract year for Scherff, who is playing on a franchise tag contract this season. For a guy viewed by many as one of the top linemen in the NFL, this could potentially be a very costly injury when it comes to the negotiating table.
Kickoff in Cleveland is scheduled for 1:00pm and for the first time in 2020, Washington will play in front of live fans. Cleveland has been permitted by the state of Ohio to host fans at 10-percent captivity of FirstEnergy Stadium. Cleveland previously hosted 6,000 fans in their home opener on September 17 against Cincinnati and the same number is expected Sunday. Cleveland is one only a few NFL stadiums that have allowed live fans this season. Washington has, so far this season, remained committed to not allowing live fans at FedEx Field due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Week 3 Preview: Washington Football Team (1-1) @ Cleveland Browns (1-1) was originally published on theteam980.com