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Browns ready for Suh-Fairley test

Posted Oct 9, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says the Browns’ offensive line is preparing for a “street fight” against Lions defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley Sunday.

They’re big. They’re strong. They’re athletic. And they’re nasty.

Very nasty!

You don’t block the Detroit Lions’ defensive-tackle duo of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley so much as you brawl with them.

Every snap is a street fight. They take pride not only in being more aggressive and physical than their opponents, but also more relentless. These guys treat preseason games like a mid-season showdown against a divisional rival.

Remember Suh’s full-throttle hit that sent Trent Richardson flying out of bounds in the Browns’ second practice game of the summer? Remember Suh’s violent take-down of Jake Delhomme in a 2010 preseason game against the Browns when he grabbed the quarterback’s facemask, twisted his head around, then wrapped both arms around his neck and slammed him to the ground (resulting in one of many fines from the NFL that Suh has received during his pro career)?

Suh and Fairley always play for keeps. And, most of the time, they play extremely well.

“It’s a big test for us,” Browns offensive guard John Greco said of Sunday’s game against the Lions. “Those are some skilled players up front. Their whole defense is talented, but mainly up front, they create some issues.”

It’s no surprise that of the Lions’ 10 sacks through their 3-2 start, eight are by defensive linemen.

The “issues” that Suh and Fairley create don’t end with their play-making or disruptiveness on the other side of the line. They can present problems simply by where they line up, which frequently isn’t limited to their respective tackle spots.

Lions assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham likes to move Suh and Fairley to various spots on the line. At times, they could be at end, while ends Ezekiel Ansah and Willie Young move inside, creating a whole new set of “issues” for the offensive line. Ansah leads all rookies with 3.5 sacks.

The Browns do have some options when it comes to dealing with the two-man wrecking crew of Suh and Fairley. They can utilize tight ends and running backs to help with blocking, and they undoubtedly will go that route on occasion Sunday.

They also will, more times than not, ask Greco, fellow guard Shawn Lauvao and their other linemen to, as one coach put it to me, take them on one-on-one and “hang onto their (own butt)” for as long as possible.  

“Yeah, you put some wrinkles in here and there to try to attack something on the defense,” Greco said. “But, for the most part, you’ve got to approach it like every other week – just watch their tape, watch the preseason tape (to see) what they did to you and go from there. Whether it’s spending a couple of extra minutes in the film room or preparing this week (on the practice field), that’s what we’re going to do to get ready for them.”

The Browns should be helped by the fact Lauvao, who shared time at right guard with Oneil Cousins in last Thursday’s victory against the Bills, should be recovered enough from an ankle injury that sidelined him through the preseason and the first four regular-season games to return to full-time duty Sunday.

That should go a long way toward helping to improve the line’s continuity.

“It’s tough when you’re splitting time and you get into a rhythm and then you’ve got to switch up and then go back in,” said Greco, who has had experience with such maneuvering during his six NFL seasons. “But we’re comfortable with whoever’s in there. So, with Shawn being healthy and back now, we’ve just got to work on that chemistry and go from there.”

Another factor in the Browns’ efforts to minimize the Suh-Fairley impact is having quarterback Brandon Weeden simply get the ball out of his hand as quickly as possible, an area to which he and his coaches are paying particularly close attention in practice and meetings this week.

This will be the first time since the second week of the season that the Browns’ offense has prepared for a game with Weeden as the starter. For the past three weeks, Brian Hoyer has occupied that spot. Before leaving the Bills’ game early with a season-ending knee injury, Hoyer, who was promoted from third string to the starting job after Weeden suffered a thumb injury, demonstrated a knack for making quick decisions and delivering passes faster than his predecessor.

The Browns’ offensive line will likely need to make some adjustments.

“Everyone has their own different style, the way they go about things,” Greco said. “But we have some talented people around us – receivers, running backs, tight ends. As long as we give the quarterbacks time, they’ll find them. That’s what our focus is, no matter who’s back there throwing the ball.”

And no matter who’s in front them trying to get to the passer.

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