The Browns offensive line was supposed to be exposed in Houston.
Sure, it’d allowed no sacks in back-to-back games, but the Bengals and Falcons couldn’t simulate the Texans’ pass rush. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney possessed too much talent.
The Browns lost to Houston, but the Texans defense recorded just one total quarterback hit. Clowney never touched Baker Mayfield, and nobody sacked him.
Nobody expected that outcome but the Browns linemen themselves.
“It was no surprise,” left tackle Greg Robinson said. “I feel like week in and week out, you are going to see good players, but we just have to stay within (ourselves), don’t really get out of whack and trust the process. If (we) do that, I feel like that is the most important thing.”
The Browns’ process will be tested again this weekend when they play the Broncos in Denver. The Broncos boast two premiere pass rushers of their own in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Broncos’ duo is in a similar class as the Watt-Clowney pairing, but these duos are great for different reasons.
Watt and Clowney produce with power. Miller and Chubb produce with speed. Miller reacts to snaps as fast as anyone in the league. Chubb lulls blockers to sleep before toasting them on his way toward opposing quarterbacks.
Adding to the Browns’ challenge this time is their need for a silent count at Bronco Stadium at Mile High. Miller and Chubb will anticipate the snap count more easily because Mayfield won’t be able to use his voice’s inflection to keep them off guard.
“When you go with a noise count – a voice count – Baker can really trick them or use his voice a little differently,” guard Joel Bitonio said. “Where silent it is we are all kind of looking at the ball. They can start timing up our count more.”
The Browns use multiple silent cadences, so that should help negate Denver’s home-field advantage to some degree. But it’s still not as effective as Mayfield’s verbal cadence.
Luckily, Mayfield can still use his legs, which he’s done effectively over the past few weeks. His offensive line has played well, but when they’ve slipped, Mayfield’s been able to cover their mistakes with his scrambling ability.
Mayfield might not be able to outrun Miller and Chubb, however. His best bet will be to make his decisions as quickly as possible.
“(Making quick decisions) can definitely frustrate a defense,” Bitonio said. “Sometimes when you get into a two-minute drive, you get into such a rhythm where they get tired of rushing.”
But in the event that Mayfield has to hang onto the ball, his blockers believe they’ll hold up for him. They’ve stymied one prolific pass-rushing duo, and they’ve only grown since then.
“I feel like we have built this level of confidence to where we can play well with one another,” Robinson said. “We are learning to communicate a little better each week just tweaking a few things here or there. We put in the work in the film room and on the practice field and it is carrying over to the game.”