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Burning Questions

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Burning Questions for season opener vs. Bengals

The Browns and Bengals will meet for the 100th time in the "Battle of Ohio"


The Browns will square off against the Bengals on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium for their season opener. This will be the 100th meeting in the "Battle of Ohio," with the Browns winning eight of the last 10.

Here are the top three burning questions ahead of the game:

Will the defense continue to cause havoc for Joe Burrow?

The Browns possess one of the most dominant defensive fronts in the league, and they can disrupt the opposing team's offensive strategy. The Browns are 5-1 against the Bengals since head coach Kevin Stefanski took over. They have found success in beating the AFC North champs mainly because DE Myles Garrett has generated pressure and terrorized Burrow. In his career, Garrett has six sacks on Burrow in four games, and recorded 11 sacks against the Bengals over nine games.

"They're a really good team," Burrow said of the Browns. "They got Myles Garrett. They always got great pass rushers. They got great corners. They make plays on offense."

The Bengals will have a harder time focusing extra attention on Garrett with the addition of several talented players to the Browns' defensive roster. DE Za'Darius Smith, DE Ogbo Okoronkwo, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DT Shelby Harris and DT Maurice Hurst II will make it more difficult for the Bengals to contain Garrett, who has recorded at least one sack in each of the last six games against them.

Check out photos of the team working to prepare for their first regular season game against the Cincinnati Bengals

What to expect from the Browns' offense?

The Bengals' defense, one of the best in the NFL last year, will provide the Browns' offense with their first true test on Sunday as they return nine of their 11 starters.

The Browns' offense had a solid showing throughout the preseason and training camp, but everyone is eager to see the versatile style in a regular season game.

"We got the pieces," WR Amari Cooper said. "I mean, every team thinks that they have the pieces. We practice well. We prepare well. But we'll just have to wait and see."

Throughout the preseason, the Browns demonstrated different formations. In past years, RB Nick Chubb was the driving force. QB Deshaun Watson, one of five captains for the Browns, is now responsible for leading the offense.

Fitting more with Watson's style, the Browns used empty backfield and QB scrambles. WR Elijah Moore even lined up at RB and received handoffs. The team's offense will aim to showcase a diverse range of strategies each week based on the personnel they have.

"One of the things we always strive to do offensively is to stay multiple and versatile and make teams defend multiple looks, multiple personnel groupings, multiple formations," OC Alex Van Pelt said. "That's part of our system, and that's how we've started it."

How will Dustin Hopkins perform in his debut?

One of the Browns' biggest preseason questions was their kicker. Cade York's 24 out of 32 field goal record during his rookie season in 2022 raised expectations, but was he ready? In practice, York performed well. However, he made big misses late in the last two preseason games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, leading to the acquisition of Dustin Hopkins.

Hopkins, a nine-year veteran, spent the last year and 11 games with the Los Angeles Chargers. However, he has never kicked a field goal at Cleveland Browns stadium.

A week ago, Hopkins was briefly introduced when the Browns held a practice at the stadium before a three-day weekend. Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone mentioned this week that the plan was for Hopkins to kick on Thursdays and Fridays, which are the regular days he has practiced kicking in previous years. Ventrone mentioned that Hopkins understands wind patterns and conditions due to playing in Washington for the Commanders.

"I think (it) bodes to his advantage and our advantage as far as acquiring a guy this late in the game," Ventrone said. "He's a true professional, he really is. He's worked really hard at getting comfortable with those guys."

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