Will the Cleveland Browns be able to ‘go small’ in 2019?

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a play in the game against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a play in the game against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns’ best defensive group may be a smaller lineup. Will that hold up against the Baltimore Ravens’ power running attack?

Do the Cleveland Browns have the talent on defense to stop the Baltimore Ravens offense in 2019?

In the 2018 regular season finale, the Ravens did most of their damage on the ground, running for just shy of 300 yards and over six yards per carry in a 26-24 home victory over Cleveland to get into the playoffs.

The Browns’ offense has firepower to try to keep up with a Ravens offense that burns the clock and limits opponents’ possessions. To do that, they’ll have to be able to stop the run.

Baltimore Offense

Baltimore returns Kenneth Dixon, Lamar Jackson, and Gus Edwards to a dominant rushing attack while adding Mark Ingram coming off a career year.

The Ravens bring back a special run blocking offensive line, along with second-year blocking tight end Hayden Hurst. Their running game will be hard to stop with all of that speed and elusiveness in Jackson and Dixon, and the size and power with Ingram and Edwards.

With Greg Roman coming in at coordinator as well, the rushing game should be even more demoralizing to teams that can’t stop the Ravens on the ground next year.

The threat of a deep passing game with Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin should keep the Browns’ outside cornerbacks honest, if the rookies can get off the line against some fast and physical CBs.

In the passing game, there should be improvement after the great rookie seasons of tight ends Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst.  The Ravens hope to see improvement in Lamar Jackson’s passing in his second year in the league.

Browns Defense

The Browns have four excellent starters on the DL, all who excel against the run in Myles Garrett, Larry Ogonjobi, Sheldon Richardson, and Olivier Vernon. The pass rushing will be immensely improved as well.

The Browns outside CBs have speed,  physicality, and talent. They will be able to hold up well enough against the Ravens’ fast receiving big play threats. TJ Carrie in the slot is deecent against the run.

To try to counter the Ravens tight ends in the passing game, the Browns have Joe Schobert, an elite coverage linebacker. Christian Kirksey returns, an above average player when healthy. Kirksey and Schobert tackle well when given a good line in front of them to keep them clean.  The Browns returning linebackers lack the speed though to stop the Ravens rushing attack, what no team was able to do until the Chargers played their safeties at the linebacker position in the playoffs.

Do the Browns have the talent to play 2-3 safeties at LB against the Ravens?

Not many teams have 4 or 5 starting-caliber safeties on the roster, and the Browns are no different, but they are better and deeper at the position than they were last year.

At safety the Browns bring back rising star Damarious Randall, who had an excellent season at FS before playing CB after injuries piled up. They add Morgan Burnett, a top-tier player against the run now back at his natural SS spot, though he may lose a half-step at the age of 30.

The Browns drafted Miami S Sheldrick Redwine in the 4th round, who has speed and is dominant against the run. His early college career at CB may allow him to hold up against Ravens tight ends in coverage at linebacker, while bringing speed and power to stop the run.

Jermaine Whitehead comes over for his 4th year as an undrafted safety from Green Bay. The coaches were impressed with his ability to read coverages and get players lined up right in minicamp. He’s extremely athletic, with the speed and agility to keep up with the Ravens ground attack.

Eric Murray is below average in coverage, and has the speed and physicality to play   against the run. He’s mostly played on special teams in his career with the Chiefs.


The Browns do have some safeties that are fast and physical enough to stop the run against the Ravens.  It’s a lot to bank on believing that a 4th round rookie, a player who has mostly played special teams, and a player with limited starting experience, will cover well enough and play well against the run with consistency.

The Browns will have to hold up against the run for the entire game with this smaller lineup.

While they don’t have to use this personnel grouping for the whole game, it would be advantageous to be able to do it well.

The Browns will have trouble stopping the Ravens running game. Their small lineup is decent, a  tier or two below what the Chargers had last season. They can only hope to make enough stops to win the game, while their offense tries to outscore the team with the #1 ranked defense last season.

The improvements the Browns made to the defense will make the games extremely competitive.   I expect to see some really close physical games, as the Steelers and Ravens consistently have played for years.

Next. 2019 NFL Draft grades for all 32 teams. dark

I’m excited for these AFC North matchups, it’s gonna be a bloodbath and a chess match.  In the end, the Browns will be able to do enough against the run to give them the edge.