The Browns return home for the first of two consecutive home games as they host the Jaguars at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Week 14. This will be the first time the Browns have played the Jaguars in the regular season since 2020.
Here are three questions the Browns must answer on Sunday.
Who will start at quarterback?
On Friday, HC Kevin Stefanski said QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson had cleared concussion protocol, but a starter was not officially named. Either Thompson-Robinson or QB Joe Flacco will start on Sunday.
Both quarterbacks bring a different dimension to the Browns offense. Thompson-Robinson is a dual-threat quarterback who likes to escape the pocket to find his receivers. The rookie has completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 429 yards in four games. He also has 12 carries for 65 yards.
Flacco is a veteran quarterback who has won a Super Bowl. Since he is not as mobile, Flacco likes to stay in his pocket and use his strong arm to connect with receivers. In his first start against the Rams in Week 13, he completed 52.3 percent of his passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns.
Whoever starts at quarterback plays shouldn't have a problem going against a Jaguars secondary that is ranked 27th in the league, as they have given up 3,310 passing yards and are ranked 25th in passing touchdowns with 19.
"Both guys practiced this week," Stefanski said. "Both guys practiced well, I got faith in both guys."
Will the defense get back to dominating?
The Jaguars are also yet to announce their starting quarterback for the upcoming game, as QB Trevor Lawrence was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday with an ankle injury that he sustained during Monday's game against the Bengals. QB C.J. Beathard is the backup quarterback for the Jaguars.
Regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Jaguars, it is imperative that the Browns defense dominates. The Jaguars offense has performed well this season. They have thrown for 3,093 passing yards, ranking 11th in the league. Their completion rate of 68.5 percent is the fifth best in the league, and they average 7.4 yards per catch, which places them seventh in the NFL. They also have RB Travis Etienne Jr., who has rushed for 771 yards and scored eight touchdowns this season, ranking sixth in rushing yards and seventh in rushing touchdowns among running backs.
The Browns defense will have a lot to look out for against the Jaguars offense. They have an opportunity to win if they can perform similarly to Week 6 against the 49ers. At the time, the 49ers were also a top offense in the NFL that can beat teams in the pass and run game. The Browns, in that game, limited the 49ers to 108 rushing yards and 125 passing yards.
"Make it physical. Make it grimy. Make it ugly," DE Myles Garrett said. "We're not a team that plays pretty ball. It's got to be dirty, messy and sloppy. We got to make it as physical and sloppy as we can for the picture for them so that they can't just go out there and air it out or have a clean way of doing things. When they operate like that, it's difficult for us. But when we make it AFC North football – it's our brand. It's what we do and we're the best at it."
Check out photos of the team working to prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars
How do the Browns balance the run and pass game?
In the last two weeks, the Browns have been a more pass-first offense. On the West Coast road trip, the offense attempted 86 passes, the most this season in back-to-back games. They threw at least 40 passes in each game, and it was the first time this season they threw the ball over 40 times.
The Browns may continue to pass the ball against the Jaguars. The Browns have thrown 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season. Even though the Browns passing game has been underachieving, they will face a Jaguars pass defense that is below average, giving up 19 passing touchdowns this season. Passing the ball against the Jaguars seems like the right choice, but Stefanski may change course and run the ball if the Browns commit interceptions early. Despite their poor passing defense, the Jaguars have caught 12 interceptions this season, which is sixth in the NFL.
The rushing attack, however, for the Browns has had consecutive poor performances. The Browns' running backs rushed 39 times for 174 yards in their last two games but failed to score any rushing touchdowns during their two-game road trip, which was the first time since Week 4.
If the Browns choose to run the ball more against the Jaguars this Sunday, they need to focus on not fumbling the ball, as the Jaguars have forced 10 fumbles this season. Protecting the ball this week at practice was one of the running backs' priorities.
"Coach preaches on ball security and it's going to be more beneficial to make sure in traffic you have two hands on the ball or catch the ball like you're doing," RB Jerome Ford said. "Those little details of seeing it all the way in and tucking it after the catch."