Running Games Collide: Henry vs. Chunt
- I’m obviously worried about the Browns’ defense going up against the Titans’ offense this week. When you look at the teams who dominated Cleveland this season (all three of their losses), it was the Ravens before they became a mess, the Steelers, and the Raiders. All three of those teams were able to take it to the Browns in the trenches. In particular, the Raiders were the one team that said, “We’re running it and daring you to stop our physicality,” and the defense couldn’t.
- Derrick Henry is so fun to watch, but that becomes a scary thing now that he’s facing our team. Henry always kicks things up to another gear over the last two months of the season. In his 5 games in the month of November, Henry had 113 carries for 594 yards (5.26 YPC) and 5 touchdowns. He hasn’t been involved too much as a receiver this season, other than one 53-yard gain in October.
- When I think about the fear I have about Henry, I have to remind myself just how good the Browns’ rushing attack is. In the three games back from his injury, Nick Chubb has 58 carries for 384 yards (6.62 YPC) and 2 touchdowns. During that same span, Kareem Hunt has 42 carries for 177 yards (4.2 YPC YPC) and 1 touchdown.
- The Browns rank 1st in the NFL in rushing, while the Titans rank 2nd. Both teams run the ball very, very well. What about their ability to stop the run? The Titans are 17th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (115.5 yards per game). The Browns are 9th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (108.2 yards per game). I still can’t help but think to myself how the numbers for the Browns’ run defense don’t tell the story of how if a team wants to commit to the run against Cleveland, they can be successful.
Myles Garrett Returns, Faces an “Old Rookie”
- “I lost my smell for almost two weeks, had body aches, headaches, my eyes were hurting, coughing, sneezing and fever. I was in pain. It wasn’t great.”
- Those are the words of DE Myles Garrett, who missed two games and was symptomatic to COVID-19. He returns this week to face the Titans, and although he should be fresh injury-wise, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the coaching staff tried to find some moments to give him a breather if they can.
- You may have read about the Titans’ left tackle situation in our scouting report this week. The Titans lost left tackle Taylor Lewan for the season to injury, and then they lost his backup, Ty Sambrailo. After being drafted in 2013, David Quessenberry made his first career start last week with a story that had him overcoming cancer and prevailing to get where he is today. Last week, the Titans got a big early lead and were able to rely on their running game, which seemed to suit Quessenberry well. Without much game action, it’s hard to tell how the “old rookie” will do in pass protection, especially when he’s never faced a player the likes of Garrett. Cleveland has to test him in obvious passing situations.
Other Nuggets to Keep an Eye On
- It’ll be about 48 degrees in Tennessee on Sunday with very little wind, which is great December weather.
- The Titans’ pass defense has struggled this season a bit, mostly because they can’t pressure the quarterback. They are in the bottom-3 in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.
- Cleveland is a bit thin at the wide receiver position this week, as KhaDarel Hodge and Taywan Taylor are out with mid-week injuries. Expect Donovan Peoples-Jones to see more playing time — remember that he has caught everything thrown to him in limited action, but you do lose that extra blocking help that Hodge provides.
- It would be one thing if Tennessee only had their running game, but A.J. Brown is a very physical receiver, Corey Davis is a solid young receiver, and the team also gets Adam Humphries back this week. The Browns’ secondary held it together last week, but that was against a quarterback who hadn’t started in years with a crew of receivers who don’t strike a lot of fear in defensive backs. Tannehill and the Titans’ group of receivers are a major step up from what we saw a week ago, so I am not optimistic with Denzel Ward and Ronnie Harrison being out.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “Sometimes, you only get a feel for your football team’s struggles by watching them every week. Clearly, there is a certain brand of football that this Browns team has struggled against, and the Titans possess that, at least on their offensive side of the ball.
The difference this week could be the Titans’ defense. Baltimore and Pittsburgh piled it on with their defensive pressure, and Las Vegas had the benefit of not worrying about Cleveland’s passing game due to the weather. The Titans’ defense has been a mixed back and often allowing a lot of points. I think we’re due for a shootout, but until Cleveland proves otherwise, I have to give the edge to the Titans’ physical nature on offense controlling the game too much.” Titans 31, Browns 24
Thomas Moore: “For the first time since mid-October, this has the feeling of a game that the Browns can’t win. It is not that the Titans are an unbeatable force; after all, they have lost to the Bengals and Colts, which are both teams the Browns beat. But rather it is that the Browns are so beat up on defense that they may have a harder time stopping Derrick Henry than the Titans will have in stopping Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
It won’t be as ugly as last season’s meeting - this Browns team is nothing like that one - but we’re putting this one down as a loss, which will set off a week of angst and bad takes on the Browns, but will ultimately turn into the final regular-season loss of 2020.” Titans 17, Browns 10
Barry Shuck: “Here is the scenario: Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson, B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith, Andrew Sendejo. These are the interior defensive players who will meet Derrick Henry up the gut. Ogunjobi has been pushed out of play regularly the last three weeks. Goodson has shown improvement in pass coverage but not in run defense, Smith is just a body, and we all know about Sendejo. Who in their right mind thinks that these five interior players will stop this train disguised as a football player? Anyone?
Yes, we all want to believe the Browns can beat very good teams like Tennessee all of a sudden since they are 8-3 and have a three-game win streak. We do. It has been three weeks since the Raiders loss. Remember how anemic the offense was? The shellacking against the Steelers? Ravens 38-6 defeat? Remember those games? Seven of those eight wins are against the worst clubs in the league. Cleveland did not smoke any of them and won by an average margin of just six points. Six. This game may be close in the first half, but the Titans are phenomenal at halftime adjustments and have scored the sixth most points. Want the Browns to do well? Of course. Expect Ogunjobi, Smith and Sendejo to stop Henry? Instead, we need Michael Dean Perry and Jerry Sherk, Vince Costello and Tom Cousineau, and Eric Turner.” Titans 34, Browns 17
Ezweav: “I admire and salute Barry’s pessimism, although strangely I’m slightly more bullish on our beloved orange helmets this week. I agree that the Titans are going to run on us fairly easily; it’ll be like when the Raiders showed up in lousy weather and said, ‘ok, we’re just going to run the hell out of the ball, stop us’, and we looked them square in the eye and answered: “No”. If Henry is on your fantasy team start him - twice if possible.
Of course all isn’t totally lost, because offensively we ought to be able to do some stuff. I know that, despite having not thrown an INT in a month and going 3-1 over that period of time, Mayfield is a complete bust on account of that overthrow that missed Higgo last week. Ear-regardless, I think Bake will be able to make more than a few plays this week, and if you combine that with Nick Chubb being Nick Chubb and maybe a little bit of Myles returning to his role as one-man wrecking crew, we have a shot.
Alas, their defense is significantly better than ours so I expect they’ll make an extra play or two more than we do. It’ll be pretty obvious who the better team is for most of the day, but we’ll do enough things right to make it a ball game. At some point though they’ll have possession of the ball with the lead in the 4th quarter, and salt it away.” Titans 22, Browns 18
rufio: “Nick Chubb is better than Derek Henry. Yeah, I said it. I’m honestly not that afraid of Henry, and I think that AJ Brown should scare more Browns fans. Especially with no Denzel Ward. Henry will make a few plays and he will break a big run. He’ll probably go for 115+ yards. But it will take him 25 carries to do what Chubb does with 15.
I’m not sure how, but the Browns find a way to win this. Myles is back and the offense can hopefully do its thing: find a way to make just enough plays to win.” Browns 24, Titans 21
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.