The Browns took it to the Minnesota Vikings last week on defense as they limited the Vikings to just seven points, the second consecutive game where they allowed single digits to an opponent.
The Chargers will present another test as they have averaged 29 points the past two weeks.
Here is everything you need to know as the Browns look to pick up their first road win against the Chargers since 1991.
Records: Cleveland is 3-1. Los Angeles is 3-1.
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
Stadium: SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Trent Green, Melanie Collins (sidelines)
Radio: 92.3 The Fan (WKRK), ESPN 850 WKNR and WNCX (98.5)
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken, Nathan Zegura (sideline reporter)
Last meeting: The Chargers won the last meeting, 38-14, in Week 6 of the 2018 season. (Boxscore)
All-time series: The Chargers lead the all-time series, 17-9-1, and the Browns have not won a road game against the Chargers since 1991.
Weather: 77 degrees and sunny, no chance of rain. (weather.com)
Uniform: The Browns dropped the ball this week as they will once again be wearing white jerseys with brown pants.
Injury report: Browns - Questionable: defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (elbow), linebacker Tony Fields (shoulder), defensive end Myles Garrett (knee/ankle), cornerback Troy Hill (toe), defensive end Takkarist McKinley (knee/ankle), tight end David Njoku (knee), linebacker Malcolm Smith (abdomen), center JC Tretter (knee/back), cornerback Denzel Ward (neck) and left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle). Out: Offensive lineman Chris Hubbard (triceps) and cornerback Greg Newsome II (calf).
Chargers - Questionable: cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (shoulder). Doubtful: running back Justin Jackson (groin).
The line: Browns +2.5
A Few Things to Watch For
Baker’s labrum: There were plenty of theories tossed around about quarterback Baker Mayfield after his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day against the Vikings. The truth, however, may be much simpler than the idea that Mayfield suddenly forgot how to play the position.
Mayfield is playing with a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder that is clearly impacting his game, especially when it comes to his accuracy.
According to @ESPNStatsInfo, Baker Mayfield’s off-target rate the first two games was 8% (2nd best in the NFL). The last two games (w/ the shoulder injury) his off-target rate is 32% (which ranks last in the league). #Browns— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 8, 2021
To his credit, Mayfield did not use the injury as an excuse, saying that “it shouldn’t” bother him.
A more truthful answer might have been something along the lines of “there is nothing I can do about during the season, so I just have to figure out how to make it work.”
It is possible that last week was just one of those games and that Mayfield will be back to his old ways this week. If not, Mayfield and head coach Kevin Stefanski need to figure out how to manage the situation because 14 points on offense is not going to cut it most weeks in the NFL.
Next man up: The situation at left tackle continues to be a tough situation for the Browns as they try to manage injured starter Jedrick Wills Jr.
Wills, who injured his ankle in Week 1, has started the previous three games but has been forced to leave each game. Even when he has played he has not been at his best as the ankle is clearly bothering him.
Callahan on Jedrick Wills battling through his ankle injury.— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 8, 2021
The Browns might have already sidelined Wills to let his ankle heal, but veteran backup Chris Hubbard injured his triceps in Week 1 and has been out ever since. Then on Friday, the news broke that Hubbard will undergo season-ending surgery.
That has left the Browns turning to Blake Hance and rookie James Hudson III each week when Wills is forced out of the game. Neither Hance nor Hudson have played very well, which has left Wills needing to keep giving it a try each Sunday.
The lone bright side is that since Wills has not been able to practice during the week, Hance and Hudson have been able to gain valuable practice time.
Hopefully if (when?) Wills has to leave the game against the Chargers, Hance or Hudson will be able to play well enough that the Browns can at least consider giving Wills some time off without fear of a disaster breaking out.
Welcome to the NFL, rookie: Cleveland’s defense gave Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields a lesson on life in the NFL two weeks ago.
On Sunday against the Chargers, it might be rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater’s turn.
Only rookie tackle to not allow a sack this season— PFF (@PFF) October 8, 2021
⚡️ Rashawn Slater ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/gfebbywF7F
Slater has yet to allow a sack and enters the game as Pro Football Focus’ seventh-best offensive tackle.
This week Slater gets to face defensive end Myles Garrett, who currently leads the NFL in sacks and has been a weekly nuisance despite being blocked by two (and sometimes) three players.
As well as Slater might be playing, he will likely need help in dealing with Garrett, which should open up opportunities for the rest of Cleveland’s defensive line. The group has responded the past two weeks and need to keep it up again this week as they deal with Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.
Time to run: Even with the passing game struggling against the Vikings, the Browns still were able to run the ball as running back Nick Chubb had 100 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry, while running back Kareem Hunt had 86 yards of offense and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
The @Browns are currently leading the NFL in rushing yards, rushing TDs, rushing first downs and rushes of 10+ yards.— Dan Murphy (@DMurph_BrownsPR) October 4, 2021
On the flip side, the Chargers are giving up 5.3 yards per carry and 139.5 rushing yards per game this season.
If Mayfield is having another rough day, the Chubb and Hunt have shown they can be relied on, so it might turn into a day where the Browns simply pound the Chargers into the ground with their league-best running game.
A final quote
Quarterback Baker Mayfield (via a team-provided transcript):
“I would say it is more just about us going out there and doing our job on the road again trying to play a complete game. We keep talking about it — or I do at least — and going to have to do that against a team that is playing very well. They have a few wins in a row against some tough opponents so we need to be able to handle that on the road. We are expecting our fans to travel well, as well. Just a good challenge for us on the road.”
These are just a few things to keep an eye on; now it is time to have your say. What are you looking for from the Browns in Sunday’s game against the Chargers?