5 Things To Watch In Cleveland


Third-Down Defense

The Browns struggled on third down with Robert Griffin III at quarterback last week in Philadelphia. Griffin and the Browns were just 2-of-10. But with Griffin (shoulder) now on injured reserve and Josh McCown stepping in, Cleveland may be improved on third down. McCown makes good decisions with the football and utilizes tight end Gary Barnidge. When McCown threw for 457 yards against the Ravens in last year's 33-30 Browns win in Week 3, McCown was 12-of-19 on third down. Baltimore's defense held the Bills to just three first downs on 13 opportunities last week and must similarly lock down in Cleveland. A major part of that will be putting the Browns in third-and-long situations.

Potential Breakout Game For Steve Smith Sr.?

The Ravens' veteran leader caught five passes for just 19 yards last week, but said he was thankful just to get out of the game healthy. With that behind him, Smith can now let loose. He led the Ravens receivers in targets, and that likely won't change. Now he'll be looking for the big play. Last year, Smith began the regular season with just two catches for 13 yards. He followed it up with 10 grabs for 150 yards in Week 2.

Time To See Ravens' Run Game

The Ravens have averaged nearly 150 rushing yards per game against the Browns since Head Coach John Harbaugh came to town. Cleveland has a young defensive line that yielded 133 rushing yards to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. On the road, with a passing game that's still being ironed out, the Ravens could rely on Justin Forsett, Terrance West and perhaps Buck Allen to get the ground game going after they averaged just 3.3 yards per carry last week.

Young Players On The Road

The Ravens have a lot of young players in prominent roles, especially on the offensive line with first-round pick Ronnie Stanley at left tackle and fourth-round pick Alex Lewis at left guard. They played on the road in the preseason, but that doesn't even compare to the noise level and animosity they'll receive in the Dawg Pound. Cleveland can be a very tough place to play when the Browns are playing well. Baltimore's rookies, which also include cornerback Tavon Young, pass rushers Matt Judon and Kamalei Correa, defensive tackle Michael Pierce and cornerback Maurice Canady, need to grow up fast on the road.

Devin Hester And The Return Game

There's something about playing in Cleveland that can bring on fireworks in the special teams game. Last year, returner Kaelin Clay brought a punt back 82 yards for a touchdown. Then the Ravens later won the game on a kick-six by safety Will Hill after he scooped up a blocked field goal and returned it for a touchdown. New Ravens veteran returner Devin Hester had just two kickoff returns (18.5 yard average) and really no chances at punt returns in Week 1. He's getting more comfortable with the Ravens' blocking and could see more opportunities this week.

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