BEREA— After leading his team to a big win in Baltimore and being named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, Browns quarterback Josh McCown didn’t have much time to reflect on his achievements over the past week.
Instead, he immediately took to the film room to dissect the Denver defense— the top-ranked defensive unit in the NFL— that the Browns offense will face Sunday.
When pouring over that footage, something became increasingly clear to the quarterback.
“They're really good,” McCown said. “It will take a good week's work to be prepared for these guys.”
In a normal week, McCown will look at the film and find a defensive flaw that he’ll look to exploit, but when watching Denver, McCown couldn’t find an attackable area.
“Sometimes from week to week you'll look at a group and there's a group on the field that you feel like you can attack whether it's the front, the linebackers, the secondary,” McCown said. “This .... there's not really, they don't have that. You look to the next group and you go, 'Golly, they're good too.’"
With so much defensive depth, Denver has talent at every position, but McCown seems to believe there’s one group— and two individuals—that stands out above the rest.
“It starts with their front. Obviously, their pass rushers, those guys are really good players,” McCown said. “I know there's a little question with Damarcus Ware's health but, man, that guys is playing at a high level and for a long time. Vonn Miller is an exceptional, exceptional player and really all across the board.”
Browns head coach Mike Pettine agreed with McCown’s assessment of Denver’s defensive strength, but mentioned a couple of weapons that the quarterback left out.
“I think it starts with their edges,” Pettine said. “It’s not just Von Miller. We’re not sure of DeMarcus Ware’s status, but just what those two have been able to do, when you add a (Shaquil) Barrett and a Shane Ray— I mean they were rolling four pass rushers on the edges— that’s tough.”
Denver’s dominant pass rush will certainly be tough to counter, but McCown trusts that the team can come up with a successful game plan over the week.
“As far as our preparation, the coaches have put a good plan for us,” McCown said. “It’s going to be a huge, huge hill to climb. But at the same time we feel like we’ve done enough good things that we’ll be in good shape to try to climb that hill.”
The aforementioned plan, according to Pettine, starts with the Browns ability to run the football.
“Any time you can rush the passer the way they do, you have to be able to establish some type of run,” Pettine said. “That will be important for us.”
Important as well will be the ability to stay away from negative plays.
“Part of it too, is to get ahead of the sticks to not be in those situations,” Pettine said. “Anytime you can tell a Von Miller that it’s second-and-10 or its third-and-11, they are playing the run on the way to the quarterback. We have to be in as few situations like that as possible.”
Pettine and McCown seem to be on the same page in terms of the Broncos defense— both in terms of plan of attack and the strength of the unit— but that’s not where theyir shared thoughts end.
“We have not gone against a defense like this,” Pettine said. “I think they are No. 1 in a bunch of categories, or at least top five. I think No. 1 overall defensively. It is for good reason.”
McCown, once again, agreed with Pettine.
“I think so,” McCown said, when asked if Denver’s defense was the league’s most dominant. “They’re just all-around from top to bottom. In every group, they’re just good players. It’s hard to find a weakness. I think, as it sits right now, absolutely I would say that.”
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