BEREA, Ohio — If Colt McCoy is going to be able to finish the season healthy, the offensive line is going to have to have a yeomen's effort in the final five games.
The Browns play the Ravens twice and the Steelers twice, sandwiched in between is a game with the Cardinals. The Ravens and Steelers are notorious pass rushing teams and will give the Browns line everything they can handle. McCoy has been sacked 26 times through 11 games.
The Ravens are coming off a nine sack performance against the 49ers. They have five players who have at least 3.5 sacks and have 38 as a team. Terrell Suggs is tied for second in the AFC with nine. The Browns have 22 sacks as a team.
"Nine sacks their last game, that's pretty good," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "When you think of the Ravens, you think of a team that's been a very fine defensive team for a lot of years, regardless of who the coach has been.
"There's no mystery, they've got talent at every level, the d-line, the linebackers and the secondary," he said. "They've got leadership at every level from the top down from Ed Reed to Ray Lewis and then upfront with Suggs, so they've got talent, they've got leadership and they've got an aggressive scheme. It's the makings of a good defense."
Joe Thomas knows how tough the Ravens are.
"They're good," Thomas said. "They know how to get home. If you get into a situation where it's a known passing situation, watch out because they're going to pin their ears back and do whatever they can to get home.
"Every year when we play them, they're going to give us our best challenge because they put some impressive specimens out on the field every year."
McCoy knows how important the running game will be if the Browns are going to avoid being in obvious passing situations. Peyton Hillis was able to play against the Bengals with 19 carries, and the Browns are hopeful that Montario Hardesty will be able to play, as well.
"I think it will really help having Peyton here all week," McCoy said. Last week, he came in kind of towards the end, we didn't know how much he was really going to play. I think having him this week, we'll be able to really benefit from that."
Shurmur said that Hillis came out of last week's game in good shape. Hillis had a big game in Baltimore with 22 rushes for 144 yards and a touchdown. He also caught seven passes for 36 yards in a 24-17 loss. In the second game against the Ravens, he had just 35 yards on 12 carries and caught one pass for five yards.
"(Peyton) looks fine," Shurmur said. "In the first game, Peyton had some long runs and he had a fine game."
Shurmur said knowing Hillis is back helps, but the offense has to execute.
"I still think we're getting better and more efficient, but when you have a top flight back in there and you hand him the ball and he's carving out yards, it makes your second and third down calls easier," Shurmur said. "I've always thought a solid running game is the quarterback's best friend."
McCoy played against the Ravens in Week 15 and was 15-of-29 for 149 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
"In this division, you're going to face a tough defense every week," McCoy said. "Cincinnati's a really good defense, Baltimore's really good, Pittsburgh is really good so this is just one more test for us.
"We're excited that we get to play at home," he said. "That'll be good for us and we want to get one week better. We felt like we got better, we just didn't finish like we wanted to last week. I think it's important for us as a young team to really focus on some of the positive things that we did and build off those and then correct the things where we were short, where we messed up or we didn't finish and then put it behind us and move forward. That's the only way we can get better as a group."
McCoy said despite his rough outing as a rookie against the Ravens, he is ready to face them.
"You've got to trust your guys, you've got to trust your running backs, you've got to trust your offensive line to pick up the protection and then you've got to trust the guys to get open," McCoy said. "That's how it is week to week. This week they are really good up front. They do a lot of twists a lot of games. I think they'll probably pressure more than anybody we've seen, at least numbers coming into this game they've pressured more than anybody we've played. We've got a lot on our plate, a lot to handle but we're excited about the challenge."
Thomas thinks the line is getting better each week.
"I think we're improving, definitely," Thomas said. "It's going to be a real nice challenge for us this week. They obviously get a lot of sacks. They get after the quarterback, they are kind of built off of getting home. It's going to be a good challenge for us for sure."
Shurmur agreed with Thomas' assessment.
"You go into the game knowing this is a guy you're going to block and the challenge is they have four or five guys like that," Shurmur said. "I think our offensive line has gotten better and we just have to execute within our scheme."
Shurmur knows that the Browns have a huge task ahead of them, but is confident.
"I think they're a good defense," Shurmur said. "I think in our division we've got four outstanding defenses and I think that's going to be the case here in the AFC North for a long time. We've got to go out there and battle and go after them because that's the way you get things done."
Injury Update: On the official injury report Wednesday, DB Mike Adams (shoulder), RB Montario Hardesty (calf), LB Quinton Spears (hamstring) and DB T. J. Ward (foot) were listed as doubtful after not practicing. LB Kaluka Maiava (knee), DL Jayme Mitchell (ankle), OL Tony Pashos (ankle) and DB Dmitri Patterson (ankle) were questionable. RB Peyton Hillis (hamstring), QB Colt McCoy (right elbow), FB Owen Marecic (head) and DL Scott Paxson (shin) were listed as probable. Shurmur said on Thursday that Adams and Hardesty would do some things in practice Thursday.
Shurmur said only Spears and Ward will not practice on Thursday.
LB Ray Lewis (foot) was listed as doubtful for the Ravens.
No Problem with Cribbs: Shurmur was asked if he was upset with WR Josh Cribbs talking about his frustrations with the progress of the team.
"I don't have a problem with guys speaking out," Shurmur said. "He wants to win."
Cribbs chose to make "No comment" when asked about this role, leading some to believe he wasn't happy with his role.
Shurmur said he and Cribbs talk ‘all the time'.
Cribbs has 29 receptions for 358 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver, which are career bests.
"It's never good to lose anybody," Dick Jauron said. "Scott (Fujita) has been very productive and Emmanuel (Stephens) , I was just so happy with him the way he was playing."
It is expected that LB Kaluka Maiava and either DL Jayme Mitchell or DL Brian Schaefering would step in for Stephens.
"We have to have some other guys step up," Jauron said.