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Documenting the Defense

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Browns D needs 'everybody doing their job' against bevy of Cowboys playmakers

The Browns face a stiff, but enticing challenge in slowing down Dallas

Joe Woods didn't mince words when he was asked about the long list of players, schemes and play types he needed to worry about in preparations for the Dallas Cowboys this week.

"There's a lot of stuff," Woods said with a chuckle in a Zoom call Thursday with local reporters. "There are some different things that you want to do to try to take away some of the stuff they do well, but the biggest thing for us is everybody doing their job and really just executing the defensive plan."

Woods, the Browns defensive coordinator, will be tasked with lining his players up in a position to slow several talented players down. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott and WRs Amari Cooper and rookie CeeDee Lamb are all players capable of wrecking a defensive gameplan in a hurry, and Dak Prescott, Dallas' five-year QB veteran, is leading the league in passing yards heading into Week 4.

Cleveland likely will need one of its best defensive performances of the year Sunday to successfully suppress its opponent. A Week 4 win will give the Browns their first 3-1 start to a season since 2001, and a win over the Cowboys in any fashion will make a statement to the rest of the league about how the Browns will stack up against some of the NFL's best teams.

But a full effort is needed to do it.

"We are going to have our hands full," Woods said. "Our guys have stepped up and played well. They will look forward to the challenge, and hopefully, we can play well."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Dallas Cowboys

Woods is correct: The Browns' defense has stepped up. They forced five turnovers to seal a win against the Washington Football Team last week, and they've slowly begun to return several key players who missed the first two games of the season due to injuries sustained in training camp.

Those players are Kevin Johnson, Mack Wilson and Greedy Williams. Johnson and Wilson played last week but were eased back into action and used in small roles. Williams did not play, although he's continued to practice since Sept. 21 and is inching closer to a season debut.

CB Denzel Ward was absent from practice Wednesday but returned in a limited capacity Thursday. He left the Washington game early due to a groin injury but still has a possibility to play Sunday.

The injuries are not optimal for Woods, but he knows that whoever is healthy must perform at a high level to successfully contain the Cowboys' high-powered offense.

"You have to account for it and just have something prepared if they want to come out and do that so we will be ready for that," Woods said. "They are very deep at receiver and they are very talented, but that is the NFL. I have coached DBs for a long time. You don't get a break, so it's on to the next challenge."

Elliott, meanwhile, is as dangerous as any Dallas player. He's averaged 3.8 yards per carry so far — which is well-below his career average of 4.6 yards — but he's scored at least one touchdown in each game and is still capable of eluding defenders on any play.

The Browns know they'll need multiple tacklers on every play to bring down Elliott. It'll be up to the defensive line, though, to keep Elliott's rushing holes small, and they're up for the challenge. They're the healthiest and most experienced position group on the defense, and they're ready to take advantage of the big opportunity to prove themselves against one of the league's best rushing attacks.

"He has a lot of hidden yardage, a lot of yards after contact," defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi said. "He's a really downhill runner and a great overall back. When you hit him, you have to make sure he's down because he has the contact balance and he will bounce off tackles or remain balanced and keep running. You have to make sure he's on the ground."

The challenge is certainly stiff, but the defense is ready. Confidence is high after an impressive win last week, and there's perhaps no better way to build off it with another solid performance against one of the premier teams of the NFC.

Woods is OK with having a long to-do list for his game week preparation. He's confident in his guys to make plays — and they'll need plenty of them Sunday.

"You just have to go in with a good scheme," Woods said, "and put guys in the best position you feel they can have success."

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