CLEVELAND — On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns (1-1) will look to move to 2-1 and rise above .500 for the first time since 2014 when they face the Washington Football Team at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Here are three keys to ensuring that the Browns do just that:
Control the trenches
There's an old adage that football is won in the trenches and that will prove especially true in Cleveland on Sunday.
While Washington may lay claim to one of the weaker rosters in the NFL, that isn't the case for its defensive line, which is stocked full of former first-round picks.
Headlined by former Ohio State star and rookie Chase Young, Washington enters Sunday's game with the most sacks in the NFL with 11. The good news for the Browns is their offensive line has been one of their strongest units through the first two weeks of the season. If Cleveland is going to move to 2-1, that's going to need to continue to be the case.
"They have depth pretty much across the board, which is tough to deal with," Browns left guard Joel Bitonio said. "Usually, you get a little break if someone comes out of the game, but honestly with them, it is another guy after another guy. They really disrupted the Eagles in the first week and [Cardinals QB] Kyler Murray did a pretty good job of escaping a few times, but they are a tough test. We are going to have to be ready for them.”
Baker to OBJ
One of the most promising aspects of the Browns' Week 2 win over the Bengals was Odell Beckham Jr.'s involvement in the offense.
After a lackluster 2020 debut, the 3-time Pro Bowl receiver bounced back in a big way, catching 4 passes for 74 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown reception. If Cleveland's offense is going to keep clicking, Beckham will likely be a big reason why, as his production helps open things up for the rest of the Browns' skill players.
“Just keep continuing to grow and take it a day at a time," Beckham said. "Always just trying to make forward progress. The same with everything else in life. Right now, we are just focused on Washington and trying to get the W.”
While the Washington offense may be devoid of playmakers, one in particular stands out as a threat. After being selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Terry McLaurin has already established himself as one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL.
If the Browns can find a way to contain the Ohio State product, it would greatly reduce Washington's ability to consistently move the ball. And while Cleveland cornerback -- and McLaurin's former college teammate -- Denzel Ward is a game-time decision, the Browns secondary should receive a boost from the potential returns of Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson to the team's lineup.
“They will move them around," Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said of McLaurin. "He just he does everything well. He separates from people, he is good with the ball in his hands and makes contested catches. He is very, very dynamic.”