On the Offense

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Browns determined to build off Week 2 success vs. Washington's dangerous defense

Washington’s D-Line will provide a tough test Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium

The Browns have moved on from all that went well in their Thursday night victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, and are focused on doing it again.

Cleveland used an unstoppable run game, a fluid passing attack and a dominant offensive line performance to roll through the Bengals. That kind of performance was needed after the offense only posted just six points Week 1 in Baltimore, and the Browns have welcomed the 10-day gap between games to rest and prepare for a repetition of success for Week 3.

Their next opponent, however, will be a much stiffer test.

The Washington Football Team has one of the most promising defensive lines in football. DE Chase Young, the No. 2 pick of the 2020 draft, is the foundational centerpiece, while four-year veteran Jonathan Allen, second-year star Montez Sweat and 10-year veteran Ryan Kerrigan provide a devastating mix of speed, power and agility in the trenches. 

Together, they lead the league with 11 sacks — yes, eleven. Eight of them came in a comeback victory Week 1 against the Eagles, but the unit is already one of the scariest defensive fronts in the league.

So the first step to victory for the Browns offense is indisputable: contain the defensive line.

"They're really good up front," Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "That's the challenge for us. The game starts up front, and we have to bring the intensity, and they have great players all around. We have to find completions, get the ball out and establish our run game. We can't let them be the game-wreckers."

Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Bengals yesterday by the Browns photo team

The Browns have two great players capable of attacking any dangerous defensive line.

Their names are Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and both running backs will play a huge role in how much damage the offense can inflict against Washington. In their first test against the Baltimore Ravens, who also own a top-tier assemblage of defensive-line talent, Chubb and Hunt rushed for a respectable 132 yards but were given just 23 carries as the Browns attempted to pass their way back from a big deficit.

In Week 2, however, Chubb and Hunt were the Browns' biggest stars — they rushed for 210 yards on 32 carries and four total touchdowns and had no problems bashing the Bengals for big gains in their best game since they became teammates in 2019.

That kind of production will be needed again for the Browns to manage all offensive strengths. Chubb and Hunt will be asked to put early dents into the defensive line's armor, and their success should help open options in the passing game, too.

"It's just a matter of those guys figuring out which one they want to contain more," Chubb said. "I think having more balance will help us out on offense."

The challenge will be biggest, though, for the offensive line. They were nearly flawless and didn't allow a sack against the Bengals despite injuries sustained to tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin. Wills fought through the injury and played well despite the short week and lack of recovery time, while Conklin was active but didn't play as he continued to rest due to an ankle injury.

Both are expecting to play against Washington — and both will be needed. Washington has varied its looks from its defensive ends in both weeks so far, and the entire rotation of talent is capable of playing on either end of the line. Conklin and Wills will have laborious battles on every snap, and their talent is needed to keep the rushing lanes big and the pocket clean.

"It just comes down to figuring out how they set up the box and how they press the holes," Conklin said. "That's really one of the big things we're figuring out between the two of us — the offensive line and the running backs. We need to figure out how to work off each other, and that's where you really see those big runs start to happen."

The Browns certainly will need more of those big runs and deep passes to work through Washington, and finding a win against the star-studded defensive line will be crucial for Cleveland to continue establishing its offense as an every-game threat.

They'll have had 10 days to assess how to do it, and if they do it well, then the enjoyment that came from their first win of the season can live a little longer.

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