Ravens vs. Browns Game Preview


*The Ravens are set to take on the Cleveland Browns Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium (4:15 p.m. ET). BR.com offers a breakdown of Baltimore's Week 3 opponent as the team prepares to go 2-0. *


Total Offense - 30 (206.5) Total Defense - 28 (384.0)

Rush Offense - 27 (72.0) Rush Defense- 24 (142.0)

Pass Offense - 28 (134.5) Pass Defense -26 (242.0)

Points Per Game - T31 (8.0) Points Per Game - 14 (19.0)

Sizing Them Up

The Browns came into the 2008 campaign picked by many analysts to be the darlings of the AFC, let alone the AFC North. While an 0-2 start shows that the early returns haven't necessarily been so positive, Cleveland remains a dangerous, young squad that can still make some noise if the team can get back on track.

Much of that promise lay in an offense that features the bruising (former Ravens record-setter) Jamal Lewis at running back and three Pro Bowl-performers in 2007 - quarterback Derek Anderson, wideout Braylon Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow.

Left tackle Joe Thomas, the third-overall pick in last year's draft, also made the Pro Bowl his rookie season.

Currently, an offense that posted a whopping 402 points last year hasn't produced many fireworks. Most of those sparks have come from Winslow, whose 12 catches rank second among NFL tight ends. He's also totaled 102 yard and one touchdown.

The Browns added talented receiver Donte Stallworth in the offseason, but he hasn't played yet this year because of a quad injury, leaving former practice-squadder Syndric Steptoe to start opposite Edwards.

Lewis has had trouble getting things going on the ground. After averaging 86.9 yards per game in 2007, he's tallied 62 and 38 in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively.

Defensively, the Browns focused on defensive line depth in the offseason, bring in the hulking Shaun Rogers, a conservatively listed at 350 pounds, and Corey Williams, who some have likened to a young Kelly Gregg. That line suffered a huge blow last week with the loss of Robaire Smith to Injured Reserve with an Achilles injury.

Cleveland's linebacking corps is led by pass-rusher Kamerion Wimbley and lead tackler D'Qwell Jackson - a Maryland product, but behind them, the Browns possess a young and banged-up secondary.

Where the Browns have excelled the most this year is in the punting game. Through two games, former Raven Dave Zastudil is third in the NFL with a 43.9-yard net punting average. In a swirling windstorm last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he had a career day, going for a personal-best 52.8-yard net average.

What's Up?

My counterpart, Zac Jackson of ClevelandBrowns.com, writes about the impact of Smith’s placement on IR and Shaun Smith moving up to the first-string.

"The Browns' new depth chart, released Tuesday, lists Shaun Smith as the right end and Santonio Thomas - who was signed after the Browns placed Robaire Smith on IR - behind him."

The Akron Beacon-Journal's George M. Thomas reports that Anderson still believes in the Browns’ vaunted offense, despite early struggles.

''They're darned good teams — the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys,'' quarterback Derek Anderson said. ''There's nothing wrong with us. Remember last year? I've got to throw the ball better, and they have to catch it and make plays.''  

"If Browns quarterback Derek Anderson immediately came to mind, that's half right. The description also fits Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. It's enough to make one wonder if the Ravens cloned Anderson's DNA before they let him go."  

According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Tony Grossi, Braylon Edwards needs to step it up.

"Did the six drops in two games versus five catches and no touchdowns give it away? In a stretch, you might charitably attribute those performances to the remnants of Edwards' heel injury that sidelined him for three weeks in preseason." 


Offensive - It's got to be Winslow heading into Week 3. The brash Miami alumnus is Anderson's top weapon early in the season, as he's currently second among tight ends with a team-leading 12 grabs for 102 yards. Winslow also accounted for the Browns' first touchdown of the year with a 2-yard catch in a 28-10 loss to the Cowboys.

Defensive - Shaun Rogers was a huge - literally - pickup for the Browns in an attempt to shore up a defensive front that gave up 129.5 yards per game last year (27th in the league). Rogers is the huge mountain in the middle that can plug some holes, and is tied for third on the team with 12 tackles this year, along with one sack.

Emerging Star

With a concussion sidelining Brodney Pool in Week 1 and a quad taking out Jones in Week 2, five-year veteran Mike Adams has stepped in and had success. He's second on the team with 16 tackles and two quarterback pressures in his two starts.

Adams came into the season with only 18 starts out of 53 games played, but these are his first two starts since joining the Browns in 2007.

Key Matchups

Ravens OLBs Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs vs. Browns TE Kellen Winslow

When Winslow lines up as a receiver, which he does often to take advantage of his athletic ability, Johnson and Suggs could find themselves marking the playmaker. Although they are both similarly-sized to the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Winslow, it's going to be critical that the linebackers keep up with the speed of Winslow when he sets up shop in the second level.

Ravens C Jason Brown vs. Browns DT Shaun Rogers

We've already established that Rogers is a load in the middle, and it will fall to the 6-foot-3, 330-pound Brown to clear out a path for the Ravens' runners. Baltimore could also use the unbalanced line that was so effective in Week 1, moving right tackle Adam Terry next to left tackle Jared Gaither, which could cause Rogers to shift down the line to left guard Ben Grubbs.


Crennel if he wants RB Jamal Lewis to anchor the offense:

"I think that he is one part of this offense, and he is an effective part of this offense. You give him the ball, he runs very hard, and that shows up. Sometimes in situations we don't get it to him enough because of score or game situation and what's happening. But Jamal is one of those guys who'd like to have it 30 times in a game, and we've been a little lax in trying to get him that 30, but we know he can make plays."

Lewis on if he will notice fans in the stands wearing his old Ravens jersey:

"No, not really. I don't really look in the stands a lot, but I'm sure I still have some fans there that hated to see me go. That's pretty much it. Hey, it's the NFL. It's football, and I just love to play it. I love this game. Like I said, I'm sure I have some other fans out there in Baltimore, but I'm a Brown now. I'm on the other side of the fence, so I'm looking forward to helping this team go as far as we can go."

Duff's Take

The Ravens were certainly thrown for a loop with the postponement of their Week 2 game in Houston because of Hurricane Ike. It will be critical this week for head coach John Harbaugh to get the players to focus solely on what the Browns bring, instead of losing their Nov. 9 bye and playing 15 consecutive contests.

That being said, the Ravens can take some positives from having a few days off this early in the year, the biggest of which is getting some nicked-up starters extra rest. Defensive tackle Kelly Gregg is trying to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery, as is running back Willis McGahee. The Ravens are always on watch for cornerback Chris McAlister's knee, and safety Ed Reed is monitoring a nerve impingement in his neck. And those are just the starters.

Another potential positive is that rookie signal-caller Joe Flacco can have another week of practice. It may not have been game-planning for Cleveland, per se, but every rep he gets is a learning experience.

For the Ravens to get to 2-0 against a motivated division rival, it's going to take more of what earned a victory against the Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener - control the line of scrimmage. Solid play from the offensive line can lead to another grinding ground attack, while putting pressure on Anderson with the front four can allow Baltimore's linebackers and cornerbacks to make plays in the secondary.

Cleveland's passing game may have not produced big numbers yet, but don't sleep on it, because it could wake up at any time.

Ed. note: These aren't necessarily the beliefs of the Ravens organization.

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