The Browns are taking on the Tennessee Titans this Sunday in Nashville. Here are four things to watch for during the game.
1. All hands on deck
Boasting the league’s second-ranked run game, few teams have been able to slow the Titans down on the ground. And in order for the Browns to do just that, defensive coordinator Ray Horton called for an “all hands on deck” effort.
Horton has been particularly impressed by Titans running back DeMarco Murray, who’s amassed 461 yards and five touchdowns through five games.
“Wow,” Horton said, “he is dynamic. Probably, right now – and again I have not seen every game, I’ve seen a lot of games – he is probably the most polished back in the game right now, meaning he is second in the league in rushing, he leads their team in pass receiving and he is a dynamic blocker so he does it all.”
Because of that, the Browns said they’re keying in on fundamentals
“He’s back to being DeMarco Murray when he was at Dallas,” outside linebacker
Behind Murray and rookie Derrick Henry, the Titans average more than 145 rushing yards a game.
2. Back on track
The Browns run game was rolling until New England virtually shut it down last weekend. The Patriots held Cleveland — which entered averaging 150 yards a game — to 27 yards on 22 carries.
So might the Browns bounce back at Tennessee?
“That’s a great question because you sit there and you ask yourself how do you rebound from such a demoralizing defeat,” running backs coach and run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said.
“We’ve got a lot of competitors on this team and the great things about working with these young men is that they desire to be great. They have a lot of resiliency and they are going to bounce back and show what they’re worth. We’re proud of them. We’re proud of the way they work. We’re proud of their efforts. We’re proud of the way they prepare. We’re looking forward to the next challenge.”
“I feel like really just hitting it better, just reading out the blocks better just because I know every week it’s not going to be like gashing hole,” he said.
3. Containing Marcus Mariota
In his second season with the Titans, quarterback Marcus Mariota is starting to find his footing after a rookie season of highs and lows.
“He is really sharp, a sharp mind and good vision, good eyes, quick release. They are running a lot of the stuff that he ran in Oregon, so it is a combination of what he has done,” Horton said of the former Duck and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner.
“I think as you mature in this league, you see more and more teams and more and more schemes and you get more comfortable back there. They have changed the dynamics of their team with the running backs and the offensive linemen. They really restructured the whole offense over there. I’m sure he is still getting used to his new weapons. Bright young man that has a bright future.”
Mariota has passed for 1,088 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions, the latter of which the Browns hope increases on Sunday.
After struggling to pressure Tom Brady last weekend, Horton said it’s on the defense to step up in Nashville.
“Production is the key word there, and that is across the board,” he said. “I look at everything, whether it is the back end, the front, the pressure, the tackles, everything because we have to play better.”
4. How does
After exiting last weekend’s game with a chest/ribs injury, Cody Kessler is set to make his fourth consecutive start after a strong week of practice.
Kessler —- who returned to the field Wednesday and proved to Jackson and the staff he was healthy — was adamant this past week that his goal was to play despite a painful hit from Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
“That was my mindset the whole time and, like I said, I don’t let anything kind of surprise me or catch me off guard. I just stay prepared the whole time,” Kessler said Thursday. “If it’s me starting I’m ready to go and if it’s not I just wanted to stay ready. But yeah, it’s exciting to get back out and obviously last week was unfortunate the game got cut a little bit short for me, so it’s exciting.”
Kessler, who was thrust into the starting quarterback role after back-to-back injuries to
“The more he grows,” Jackson said earlier this week, “the better he gets.”
And on Sunday, Kessler will have the chance to take another step.