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NFL playoffs: 3 ways that the Browns can shut down CJ Stroud, Houston’s offense

Jim Schwartz can do a few different things to shut down the Texans’ offense this weekend

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns are officially playing the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2024 Wild Card Playoffs on Saturday, due to the Jacksonville Jaguars losing to the Tennessee Titans this past weekend.

The Browns have been working towards this moment since spring of last year, and they’ve had to deal with an immense amount of adversity throughout the regular season. From tons of outside uncertainty regarding Deshaun Watson to injuries to multiple franchise-level players, everything has seemingly gone against Cleveland in 2023. Despite all of this, they’ve been able to be successful through it all and now it’s time to carry over that success into the playoffs.

Houston’s offense has been incredibly fun to watch with the talented rookie C.J. Stroud at quarterback, but there are a few things that Jim Schwartz can and most likely will do to limit the Texans’ offensive success weekend.

Limit explosive plays

The name of the game for Houston’s offense as a whole has been its explosive passing game with C.J. Stroud at quarterback. Earlier in the season Stroud developed an excellent connection with fellow rookie wide receiver Tank Dell, but Dell was unfortunately injured in Week 13 and has since been placed on IR.

Since then, Nico Collins has undoubtedly become Stroud’s go-to receiver in all areas of the field and consistently gives defenses problems due to his combination of size and body control.

Lucky for Cleveland, they have the top cornerback trio in the league and have been dominant all season long. Martin Emerson’s 6’2”, 201 lb. frame will match up nicely against Collins. Emerson has done a great job this season of combatting bigger receivers by knowing how to effectively use overall length, specifically his almost 34” arms.

There’s a good chance that Jim Schwartz will do everything he can to ensure that Emerson follows Collins around all game long. The best way to deal with the Texans’ offense on Saturday might be to play in a Man-Free coverage shell, or a similar “bend but not break” scheme in the secondary. The Browns' defense might be okay with Stroud hitting short passes and being efficient underneath as long as they don’t allow Houston to hit on anything over the top, which has undoubtedly “broken” a few games open for the Texans in the regular season.

Shut down Houston’s run game

Though Houston doesn’t have the most effective rushing attack, Cleveland’s defense mustn’t allow the Texans’ ball-carriers to start bailing out the passing game if Stroud begins the struggle.

The Browns need to try and force Stroud to win the game with his arm. It would be back-breaking for the defense if they can shut down the passing attack, but Devin Singletary and Houston’s inefficient running game starts to convert unnecessary 1st downs. There’s no reason for that offense to stay on the field longer than they deserve to be.

Take advantage of the Texans’ weak offensive line

Yes, Houston’s offensive line has played fairly decent throughout the last handful of games, but they’re still in shambles regarding injuries. This is the same offensive line that Cleveland was able to dominate in Week 16.

The Browns are going to be out for blood in this game, and it’s going to be almost impossible to stop Myles Garrett and Co. from putting constant pressure on the quarterback. C.J. Stroud has been excellent when operating under duress in his rookie season, but he’s never faced a pass rush that’s as fierce as Cleveland’s.

Do you think that Cleveland has what it takes to beat C.J. Stroud and the Texans on Saturday? Join fellow Browns fans in the comment section below.