The Browns’ offensive line didn’t have a great showing in a 23-10 season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins had 16 quarterback hits and six sacks, and Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden said it was the most hits he ever took in a game.
They won’t get a break today trying to block two pass rushers who have tormented the Browns for years.
Offensive tackles Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz will be lined up against the Baltimore Ravens’ talented outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, who make up one of the better pass-rushing tandems in the league.
Suggs was the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and has been to the Pro Bowl five times. He has had 13 sacks against the Browns in his career (he only has more against the Pittsburgh Steelers, with 13.5). Dumervil, who was with the Denver Broncos last year before signing with the Ravens after Paul Kruger’s exit to the Browns, is a three-time Pro Bowler who has been just as tough on the Browns as Suggs. In his past four games against the Browns, Dumervil had nine sacks. That includes last December, when he had two sacks in the Broncos’ 34-12 win.
Suggs and Dumervil have eight Pro Bowls and 150 combined sacks and have had the Browns’ number time and time again. Now they’re playing together, rushing the quarterback on either side. Keeping Weeden upright might be the Browns’ toughest task.
“It’s a big challenge for our guys,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said of preparing for the Ravens’ corps of linebackers. “They’re really going to need to step up. We’ll do some things from a schematic standpoint to try to help and have a plan. We have to execute the plan.”
The big-name showdown is on the left side between Thomas and Suggs, two of the premier players at their position. A week ago, cornerback Joe Haden and Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace said that type of a matchup is one that lets you know where you stand in the league. Thomas says he doesn’t worry about that, but he is preparing for a battle with Suggs.
“I’m just trying to block him, that’s basically what it is, just trying to figure out a way to block him every play,” Thomas said, laughing. “I don’t really think about where my standing is in the NFL. ... I watch the best tackles in the NFL on film go up against him. They win and he wins just as many times as they do. It’s always a great challenge.”
The biggest area of concern is Thomas’ counterpart on the right side. Schwartz struggled mightily against the Dolphins’ Cameron Wake, who had 2.5 sacks a week ago. He’ll have to slow down Dumervil, who ended up with the Ravens in part because of a fluke.
Dumervil, per multiple reports, agreed to reduce his contract with the Broncos from $12 million to $8 million as part of a renegotiated three-year, $30 million deal. The Broncos needed the cap space. But the faxed paperwork didn’t make it to the NFL office in time, and the team was forced to release him. Dumervil then fired his agent over the debacle. Nonetheless, he’s with the Ravens, in part to that mix-up and in part to Kruger’s coming to the Browns. Today, he’s Schwartz’s key adversary.
Schwartz says if there’s anything to take out of his performance against the Dolphins, it’s that he’s learned the value of consistency and is hoping to apply that to Week 2.
“It’s being a little more consistent with my own technique,” Schwartz said. “That’s where it all starts, that’s what makes Joe so good. He’s so consistent with that. His hands are always in the same place, he’s always under control in that perspective. It’s just becoming more consistent with that for myself.”
Weeden will need the protection to stay out of trouble. The Ravens, since 2008, have held opposing quarterbacks to a 66.8 passer rating at home, the NFL’s best defensive mark. They’ve also forced the second-most interceptions at home in that time with 55.
If Thomas and Schwartz can’t contain Suggs and Dumervil from pressuring the pocket, Weeden will have a long day. And he’ll be spending much of it on his back.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.