Game Preview: Browns-Redskins

Posted Dec 15, 2012

The Cleveland Browns end the home portion of their regular-season schedule against the Washington Redskins Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The Cleveland Browns welcome the Washington Redskins to Cleveland Browns Stadium for Sunday’s 2012 regular-season home finale.

While the Browns have gone about their preparations, the Redskins have been trying to get their starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III, healthy after he suffered a sprained knee ligament in last week’s overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Griffin has been able to practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but the Redskins’ coaching staff has said that it will not make a decision on the starting quarterback until Sunday morning. When Griffin left last Sunday’s game, fellow rookie Kirk Cousins led the Redskins on a last-minute touchdown drive and converted a two-point conversion run to force overtime.

“They run similar plays,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of Griffin and Cousins. “The one thing about the Redskins’ offense is it’s very balanced. Their passing game is West Coast in principle. We’ve all seen what they’ve done, utilizing the skill and ability of RG3. It’s multi-dimensional and we have to prepare for that regardless of who is playing quarterback.

“(Cousins is) a very mature guy. I liked the way he led. He was very efficient, won a lot of football games, all the things you look for in a player. I thought he was a good player.”

On the season, Cousins has completed seven of 11 attempts for 137 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions. In the win over the Ravens, Cousins went two for two for 26 yards with a touchdown pass to veteran wide receiver Pierre Garcon.

“He comes from a winning program,” Browns defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard said of Cousins, who played at Michigan State University. “He knows how to win and has a great arm. RG3, he’s the man right now. He’s a great player. He plays hard and disciplined, so we’ve just got to get after either one of them. They have a big offensive line in front of them that’s going to be tough to get past. We’ve just got to go out there and play.”

The Redskins have used a zone-read, read-option style of offense and it has worked to the tune of 5,024 yards and 40 touchdowns in 13 games.

Griffin has completed 233 attempts for 2,906 yards and 18 touchdowns against four interceptions. Also, he ran for 748 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries. When Griffin has not thrown the ball, he has handed off to rookie running back Alfred Morris. Morris has rushed for 1,228 yards and seven touchdowns on 253 carries. He is second in rushing among NFL rookies and has 42 yards on six receptions.

With Griffin and Morris in the backfield, the Redskins have utilized the pistol formation.

“It’s a two-back shotgun formation where the running back stands behind the quarterback,” Shurmur said. “That’s the essence, as opposed to being in the shotgun and if you had a single running back, he’d be on one side or the other.

“There’s a little bit more of a play-action component. There’s a little bit more of a balance. Am I going to run right or left? You can do some of the things if you want to put another running back in there that you can form a two-back set in the shotgun. There’s merit to it, and I think that’s why you see some people do it.”

While the Browns prepare for the Redskins’ formations and personnel, the offensive coaches will be working against a Washington defense ranked in the top 10 against the run after giving up 98.8 yards per game on the ground.

“You’re seeing a lot of blitzing going on,” Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress said Thursday. “You are seeing a lot of run-blitzing as well as pass-blitzing going on, whereas Kansas City did very little of that. This is really, ‘A-live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword (defense).’ They are coming after you coming off the bus. We’ll have to be way differently ready than we were last week for Kansas City’s defense.”

Veteran linebacker London Fletcher is the leader of the Redskins’ defense. Fletcher has played in 237 consecutive games, which is tied for the longest active streak in the NFL. He is one interception away from matching a career high of four that he set in 2000 and tied in 2006.

He has registered a team-best 150 total tackles, 87 solo stops and 63 assists. In addition to his three interceptions, Fletcher has forced three fumbles and defended 10 passes.

“He has been around forever; he’s like a dinosaur,” Childress said. “I think I can remember competing against him on three different teams, back when he had three different names on the back of his jersey. It’s amazing that a guy playing that position could still be as effective as he is. You can see his passion for the game. He truly is their quarterback on that side of the ball. You see him get people lined up. (He’s) still playing at a high, high level.”

While Washington’s defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 320 attempts for 3,913 yards and 27 touchdowns, the Redskins have registered 15 interceptions and scored four defensive touchdowns.

The Redskins have also registered 23 sacks for 152 lost yards.

“I would say this, you’d better not hold onto the ball very long against these guys,” Childress said. “They’ll take you to task in a hurry. All that kind of stuff that we’ve done offensively, there’s got to be an element of the quick passing game. There’s got to be an element of the crossing game that you see from us every week. I’d just say nothing good’s going to happen in this game with the quarterback holding onto the football, because they are going to storm the castle.”

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