BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns enter Week 2 as the No. 1 ranked run defense in the league after holding Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers in check last week.
Pittsburgh finished with just 35 yards rushing – Bell had 32 of them – in their 21-18 victory.
“We just had a lot of guys run to the ball, making plays,” defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said. “We just have to get better, have to be better tacklers, have to get better at open field tackles, but I am proud of our run defense. We made a statement and we have to keep making that statement every week.”
This week the Browns’ defense will face a familiar face in their bid to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the run game in Ravens running back Terrance West.
“He is running well. He and the kid from USC, they had big games last week,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “Those guys rushed for 150-some yards. Their offensive line is where it starts. [Ravens guard] Marshall Yanda – go check that guy out. [Ravens tackle Ronnie] Stanley and the rest of those guys, they are playing well. They are playing physical and they get after you. The backs run hard, they run tough and they run through tackles. They are a good, strong, physical football team.”
Last week West ran for 80 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in the Ravens’ 20-0 shutout of the Bengals.
The Browns drafted West in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft and he finished his rookie season as their leading rusher with 673 yards on 171 carries with 4 touchdowns.
The Browns traded West in Sept. 2015 to Tennessee after falling out of favor with the coaching staff. The Titans waived him in November and he landed in Baltimore where he’s resurrected his career.
West started 13 games and appeared in all 16 last season where he ran for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns.
“T. West is a hard runner. He came in with me in our draft year in 2014,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “He can make you miss. He is not the lightest guy. He is kind of heavy-set. He is strong. He can catch out of the backfield. T. West is definitely a good running back. It is up to us to eliminate him from making big plays and becoming a spark on the defense so we will make sure that we will be prepared for him.”
West isn’t the only back the Browns will have to worry about. Javorious Allen added 71 yards on 21 carries as Baltimore finished with 157 yards on the ground while running 42 times in the victory.
After finishing last season ranked second-to-last against the run by allowing 142.7 yards per game on the ground, stopping the run has been a major point of emphasis under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
“Once you defeat their run, eliminate it out of their game and force them to pass, that is when it is a whole different ball game,” Kirksey said. “For us, we want to force teams to pass the ball almost. Once we eliminate the run, it allows us to do more and more and open up our defensive playbook so that is definitely a confidence booster when you are able to eliminate guys from making big plays in the run game.”
Who’s Number 2 – Jackson declined to say who the backup quarterback will be this week against the Ravens after going with Kevin Hogan last week.
Jackson did praise hoe Kessler has handled the last 2 weeks on the field as well as behind the scenes.
“He has been great for DeShone,” Jackson said. “When I am up here late at night, the guy who is with DeShone still is Cody. Cody has been through this so Cody has been a really good mentor per se for DeShone. He has been great in practice. He has always egging DeShone on to get the offense going, to get the rhythm going and to get the fire going. He has done a great job. He has been a pro about it.”
Last week Jackson said that Kessler would get an opportunity as the No. 2 this season even though he went with Hogan to start the year, and it could come as early as Sunday.
“I think Cody knows his day is coming at some point,” Jackson said. “He is not concerned about that. In respect to the decision we made, he understands. I think that is what being a good pro in the National Football League is. Now, me saying that, does he want to play? Oh, yes. Is he competitive? Does he want to be out there? No question he does, but I think he gets the role that he is in right now.”
Thanks, But No Thanks Ben – Although the Browns started 0-1 for the 13th straight season they earned some respect in the process from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who improved to 21-2 as a starter against Cleveland.
“That’s a really good defense,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday. “That team is going to surprise a lot of people, I’m glad we played them Week One.”
The comments did little to satisfy Kirksey following the loss when he was asked about them Thursday.
“I’m not trying to take no sympathy comments, nothing like that. Not saying that he did do that, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to win,” Kirksey said. “People can say what they want to say or say good things or say, ‘man, the Browns were almost there.’ I’m not really into all of that. At the end of the day, we need to win.”
Zeitler Ready – Right guard Kevin Zeitler returned to practice Thursday sporting a much smaller cast on his right hand/thumb/wrist than the one he had Wednesday.
Head coach Hue Jackson said that Zeitler is “ready to roll” Sunday in Baltimore but he’ll likely wear some type of protection on his right hand which may limit his ability to grab a defender.
“Obviously, you would like to have all of your fingers to use when you need them, but we will see,” Jackson said. “Obviously, you have to keep your hands inside. That is the rule. You are not supposed to grab and tug and pull. That is called holding the last time I checked. Maybe this will help eliminate some calls.”
Injury Report – DNP: DE Myles Garrett (ankle), T.Y. McGill; LIMITED: RG Kevin Zeitler (thumb); FULL: Joe Thomas (knee/rest), DT Danny Shelton (knee); FULL: DL Caleb Brantley (finger), WR Kenny Britt (knee), RB Duke Johnson (chest), TE Randall Telfer (knee)