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Need to Know: Browns prepared to face Terrell Suggs for 1st time in 11 years without Joe Thomas

Posted Dec 14, 2017

Baltimore pass rusher playing at elite level in 15th season

Terrell Suggs hasn’t slowed down a bit in his 15th season, and he’s heading full speed into a matchup with the Browns that will pit him against a left tackle not named Joe Thomas for the first time in 11 years.

Second-year left tackle Spencer Drango will have the tall task of blocking Suggs on more plays than not Sunday. Suggs is playing at the same, if not a higher, level than when Browns coach Hue Jackson was on Baltimore’s staff in 2008 and 2009, and that makes him one of the biggest threats on one of the NFL’s most dangerous defenses.

“Terrell Suggs is one of the best players that has played in this league, in my opinion,” Jackson said Thursday. “Having been there with him and spent time watching how he prepares and how he works and how much football means to him and how passionate he is about football and the Ravens and their defense, I am not surprised by anything he is doing.”

Year after year, Suggs would draw Thomas, a similarly perennial Pro Bowler, in a match of strength vs. strength between two future Hall of Famers. This time, he’ll be facing Drango, who has filled in admirably for Thomas and will make his seventh consecutive start against a Ravens defense that has notched three shutouts and consistently forced a flurry of turnovers.

Jackson said Drango has been receptive to coaching and Thomas has been a major help to him throughout this stretch.

“I know for a fact that Terrell and Joe really respect each other and respect each other’s game and professionalism and everything they brought to the game,” Jackson said. “I think Spencer has competed extremely well for us this year and has done some really good things. He has had some other challenges week in and week out. The National Football League every week our left tackle has somebody to block, but everybody is not Terrell Suggs, either. We get that. It is going to be a tremendous challenge.”

-- The Browns practiced without three cornerbacks Thursday, as Jamar Taylor (foot), Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee) and Darius Hillary (knee) did not participate.

Cleveland was without Boddy-Calhoun and safety Jabrill Peppers last week against the Packers and is bracing to be light on depth against the Ravens.

“It is concerning because today was the last big, big practice,” Jackson said. “We need to see if we can get some guys back or we are going to have to do something to shore it up.”

-- The Ravens’ offense has struggled throughout the season, but it broke out in a big way last week against the Steelers, scoring 38 points in a game the team would ultimately lose, 39-38.

It’s a different looking attack than the one the Browns faced Week 2. For one, quarterback Joe Flacco, who missed most of training camp with a back injury, is looking more like the Joe Flacco the Browns have seen year after year.

“He’s a guy that can make every throw but really specializes getting the ball down the field. You just saw one with (Ravens WR) Mike Wallace running across the field against Detroit, and he is able to put the ball all the way outside the opposite numbers,” veteran defensive back Jason McCourty said. “Plays like that are where he is very dangerous. He is so accurate on his deep ball and giving his receivers a chance to make plays down the field. I think that is the big thing of a concern for us as a defense.”

Flacco did his damage against the Browns by finding his tight ends and running backs on short throws. Veteran Ben Watson had his best game of the season (eight catches, 91 yards) and running back Javorius Allen made a game-changing, 37-yard catch near the end of the first half.

Running back Alex Collins had yet to fully emerge when the Browns traveled to Baltimore. He’s coming off a performance against the Steelers in which he notched 166 yards of offense and a touchdown.

“He is an explosive back,” linebacker Joe Schobert said. “He looks to hit around the perimeter a little bit but can also run behind his pads really well. I think last week against the Steelers you saw on the sideline when three guys kind of tackled him, he ended up breaking through and getting an extra 20 yards. He is a good back and somebody that we are going to have to be ready for.”

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