The Browns will host the Titans in their second home game of the season on Sunday. Both teams are 1-1 as they enter this matchup heading into Week 3.
Let's look at three of the biggest keys for the Browns to win their second home game of the season against the Titans.
Limit Derrick Henry and the Titans run game
The Browns rush defense has a tough task ahead of them with RB Derrick Henry and the Titans. In the first two games of the 2023 season, Henry has rushed for 143 yards on 40 carries and one touchdown. He also has 71 receiving yards on five receptions. Henry is a difficult defensive assignment. LB Anthony Walker Jr. reiterated that it would require a collective effort from the defense in order to stop Henry.
"We got to get eleven hats to the ball," Walker said. "We understand that. He's been the top five back in the NFL since he's been in, and we understand that. We give him his respect. But it's eleven of us. With all eleven of us getting to the ball and flying to the ball like we do, we got to make it hard on him."
HC Kevin Stefanski thinks the run defense has been very sound through the first two games of the season. But he knows that it's going to be just as important for the Browns this week as they face the Titans rush attack with running backs committed to the run.
DC Jim Schwartz agreed. To use an analogy close to home in Ohio, Schwartz said:
"Number 22 (Derrick Henry) is coming town, and we need him on highway 90. We don't need him on highway 71, if you know what I mean, right? No, north-south, we need him east-west. We need him going sideways and the D-line is going to have a lot to do with that and getting penetration and keeping him from coming downhill on us."
Dominate from the defensive line
It's not just about stopping the run game, though. The Titans offensive line is one of the first places where the defensive game plan will begin. And Schwartz said their defensive line drives their defense and is the engine of their defense.
If the line of defense starts upfront, then the Browns have options like DE Myles Garrett or Sion Takitaki who can pressure QB Ryan Tannehill.
"I think we have a lot of complementary parts that way that we can use," Schwartz said. "And you devote too much attention to one guy, we have a lot of ways to sort of make you pay in another way. So, D-line is very important to us."
Find cohesiveness in the offense and the passing game
Through the first two games of the regular season, the Browns passing game has struggled. After losing RB Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 and their run game taking a hit, the Browns will need more production from their passing game to execute their offense.
QB Deshaun Watson said they have been working through the offense not being on the same page. They've dealt with injuries like to Chubb, and are working to get guys like WR Elijah Moore live game reps in the new system of the offense.
Against the Titans, the Browns need to find that connection as a unit.
"For myself it's being on the same page with everybody else," Watson said. "And that's just going with protection-wise, through the coverage wise to what we're thinking about with Kevin (Stefanski). If it's going to be a fourth-down situation, if it's a third-down situation, if I need to take the shots, if I don't need to take the shots and things like that. So just being able to just continue to grow and learn, and that's the biggest thing for me. And that's the part of this game. It's the NFL. Every week is different. Every week is a new challenge, and you have to continue to grow and continue to get better."
OC Alex Van Pelt believes they are close as an offense, though, and that they will sync as a unit.
"I mean, we're doing a lot of good things offensively," Van Pelt said. "We're not clicking 100 percent yet, so I feel good about the direction we're heading. And I see it all coming together as we move forward. It's like any other season. Very rarely, teams start off and get hot and stay hot the whole year. So it's finding your way through and just continue to grow together."