If the Cleveland Browns want to take home a win this Sunday, a recipe to slowing the offense of the Kansas City Chiefs must be in order. Week 1 has finally arrived, and the Browns get an immediate chance at revenge. After the Kansas City Chiefs ended their season a year ago, the Browns now have the opportunity to repay the favor this Sunday.
Offensively, the Browns did not experience an ounce of turnover as the unit should be able to click, control the clock, and put up some points against the Kansas City defense. Defensively, however, the Browns made significant upgrades to add speed and talent to their roster. Big money in free agency, a first round pick, a trade up into the second round for another, the Browns prioritized that side of the football.
How did they craft their defense? To form a unit to compete with the high-flying offense of the Chiefs. Offensively for Kansas City, it is all about the vertical speed and crossers over the middle of the field. The Browns now have the depth and players to counter that attack.
As the Browns look for that elusive Week 1 victory, what is a recipe for defensive success from this fresh, new unit?
The less LBs on the field the better
Will the Chiefs run the ball? Sure. However, are they going to be lining up in traditional sets? Absolutely not. Kansas City is going to run an incredible amount of 11 personnel (one tight end, one running back), and the Browns are going to be forced to match their personnel.
This means base will be at a minimum when gametime hits. While the Browns will trot out their SAM linebacker Sione Takitaki when needed on Sunday, his snap count is more than likely going to be on the low side. Anthony Walker is going to see the most snaps, obviously, as the MIKE linebacker, and WILL is where it can get dicey.
While Mack Wilson is listed as the starter on the depth chart at this point, the threat of Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce must dictate personnel. At that point, the comfort level with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at WILL is much higher than Wilson. Regardless, it will be rare to see three linebackers on the field, as a third safety on early downs is far more likely and an added cornerback on obvious passing situations will be the move.
Take advantage of first-time starters up-front
The Chiefs no longer have former Brown Mitchell Schwartz or former first overall pick Eric Fisher on their roster. In fact, they are looking to field three new starters up front, two of which are rookies. Adding Joe Thuney in free agency and former Baltimore Raven Orlando Brown via trade gave the Chiefs a solid core up front.
However, with 2020 day-three pick Lucas Niang, 2021 second rounder Creed Humphrey, and 2021 day-three pick Trey Smith all set to crack the lineup, the Browns defensive line must feast. All talented young blockers, the likes of Malik Jackson, Andrew Billings, Jadeveon Clowney, and Myles Garrett get the chance to welcome them to the NFL.
Despite taking running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round a year ago, the Chiefs will never be a team that beats you on the ground. The attack will come from the arm of Mahomes, and it will come in a healthy dose. Looking at the Super Bowl loss a year ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won with pressure on the former MVP early and often, forcing him out of the pocket and out of his comfort zone.
Get after the young bucks and force Mahomes to make the extraordinary plays. Even then, Mahomes is going to get his. It’s all about limiting him at this point.
Let Denzel Ward follow Tyreek Hill
The Browns went out and got all of those defensive backs and all of that speed for a reason: to keep up with the speed of the Chiefs’ offense. Not only did they add a ton of speed, but also a ton of talent in the form of Greg Newsome. Now slotted to start opposite Denzel Ward, Newsome is followed by Greedy Williams and seasoned vet Troy Hill on the depth chart.
In a position with depth in the secondary that has been a downfall in the past, the Browns now must take advantage. Put your numero uno on their numero uno. Ward has the skillset, speed, and fluidity to play the field, the boundary, and in the nickel if necessary.
Outside of Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs boast lethal speed as well, but otherwise unproven talent in the form of Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, and Demarcus Robinson. Let the other talented cornerbacks in the room roam the rest of the field with the help of their safeties over the top.
Wherever Hill goes, Ward must follow.