BROWNS ON DEFENSE: The philosophy of the Washington Redskins is a rather simple one. The Redskins thrive on running the football. Time of possession is critical for the Redskins under new head coach Jim Zorn. QB Jason Campbell has adapted well to yet another new offense in this his third season in the league. Minimizing turnovers and mental errors has been the strength of the Redskins offense, thanks in large part to Zorn's utilization of a power rushing attack and a relatively 'safe' passing scheme.
Based off the running game, Campbell drives the Washington passing attack by displaying the ability to capitalize on the occasional big play supplied by the speedy WR Santana Moss. Thanks to the success of the rushing attack, Campbell is able to use play-action effectively.
TE Chris Cooley is a dependable and oft-utilized weapon in the Washington passing game. QB Campbell possess a major-league arm and has progressed nicely in this modified version of the West Coast offense. Campbell's development is a major reason the Redskins stand at 4-2, as the Cleveland Browns head to FedEx Field.
For the Browns to be successful on Sunday against the Redskins, the Cleveland defense must contain the Washington rushing attack, pressure Campbell and minimize big plays. The tandem of Moss and Randle-El at WR will challenge a Cleveland defensive backfield that has gained momentum in recent weeks.
While the Redskins offense has weapons on the outside, it is the rushing attack and intermediate passing game with the backs and TE Cooley that makes this offense go.
The Browns defense has had trouble over the years covering athletic tight ends effectively, as well as containing the running game of the opposition. Despite the steady improvement in the Browns defense, their inability to slow the rush remains a legitimate issue. It is one which this Washington offense will methodically attack throughout the contest.
In recent weeks, the Browns rush defense has been increasingly aggressive, which may not be the right model to slow the Washington rushing game. Over-aggression can lead to over-pursuit, bad positioning and poor gap integrity, especially dangerous against the talents of a RB such as Clinton Portis. Expect the Browns defense to remain aggressive, but focus on staying home in obvious running situations. It would not be out of the question for the Cleveland defense to rely on safety support to hone in on Portis.
Along the offensive line, the Redskins are battling injury and inconsistency. Starting LT Chris Samuels and LG Pete Kendall are not 100-percent, while RT Jon Jansen has struggled and has lost reps to Stephon Heyer. Center Casey Rabach will struggle against NT Shaun Rogers... expect the Browns defense to again be aggressive at the point of attack and mix-in various blitz and stunt schemes to get the Washington lineman off the point.
Stopping the run is the key to this ballgame. While the Cleveland defense respects the skill players of the Redskins, the belief is those said skill players are not viewed as sufficient enough to carry the Redskins without the versatility the rushing attack provides the QB and overall scheme. That is, of course, unless the Cleveland defensive backfield has a meltdown and allows the Redskins receivers to make numerous big plays over the top.
Starting CB's Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald have fared well for the Browns defense. With the defensive scheme relying more on man-on-man coverage on the outside, this tandem has been solid. In their second professional season, Wright and McDonald are confident cover corners that display the tendency to play aggressively, resulting in the ability to jump routes and create turnovers.
The downside of this type of play could be a focal point in this game. The speedy and quick Washington receivers have the ability to get in and out of routes extremely well, which could create some downfield separation if the Browns defensive backs are not fundamentally sound. The play-action used so well by the Redskins tends to catch defensive backs peeking into the backfield, which provides an avenue for the passing game to gain an advantage, especially against an aggressive DB.
ON OFFENSE: The Browns face a tough challenge coming from the front-seven of the Washington defense. The Redskins are physical, focused and technically sound. This Washington defense shows numerous blitz packages and has been successful due to their solid recognition.
For the Cleveland offense, it's all about the execution. When the Browns offense is firing on all cylinders, they are as good as any team in the game. The issue has been terrible inconsistency, some of which is directly related to injury and penalties. As the offensive line has stabilized, the overall play of QB Derek Anderson has improved.
With the Washington defensive backfield being questionable due to numerous injuries to the starting corners and safeties, the Browns offense would be foolhardy not to attempt to expose the weakness immediately. Look for the Redskins to come after Anderson early and often to help mask the issues in the defensive backfield, while disguising coverage, especially with LB drops to confuse the Browns QB. If anything, game tape shows that if the defense can get to Anderson, he will make mistakes.
Coming off their best offensive output of the season against the New York Giants, the Browns offense will take on a similar look in this battle in Washington. The Browns will attempt to run the football to keep the Redskins defense honest, but it may be the passing game which opens up the running attack on this day. Quick intermediate passes early to keep the Redskins from flooding the box will open up lanes for RB Jamal Lewis as the game progresses.
If this Browns team executes and can minimize the mental errors which has derailed this team on occasion, this is a game for the taking on the road in Washington. If QB Derek Anderson is wildly inaccurate and inconsistent early, a dinged-up Washington defense will gain confidence. The story of this game will be the ability of the Cleveland QB - as Anderson goes, this offense follows.
The Cleveland offense has the weapons in the passing game to be successful against a limping Washington defensive backfield. If CB Carlos Rogers, Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs can line up and be effective, the Browns passing game is going to be in for a tough afternoon. If the injuries sideline these more than capable defenders, - it is Advantage: Cleveland.
I don't see the Giants game as a fluke - if the Browns follow the script they should leave Washington with a 3-3 record.