Will Browns’ offensive line benefit from matchup with Rams’ defensive front?

Posted by Vic Carucci on November 10, 2011 – 9:01 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

The struggles of the Browns’ offensive line seem to only get worse by the week.

The combination of inexperience, injury, and overall poor play, has done plenty to render the offense nonproductive. Colt McCoy has spent most of the Browns’ eight games this season under siege. And that has gone a long way toward rendering their passing game ineffective. Whatever healthy running backs the Browns have are barely able to find a sliver of daylight.

The Browns’ offensive line is long overdue for just a solid, let alone, strong game. Could Sunday be the day that it happens?

The St. Louis Rams have had a whole lot go wrong for them to end up with a 1-7 record. Their defense ranks near the bottom of the NFL in total yards allowed and is dead last against the run. The Rams’ defensive line has had two of its better games in the past two weeks — a Week 8 upset of the New Orleans Saints and last Sunday’s overtime loss against Arizona. The Rams had three sacks against the Cardinals and their pass rush managed to produce a pair of safeties. But the Cards had allowed 24 sacks through their previous seven games.

Still, going against the Rams’ defensive line might not necessarily be a bad match-up for the Browns’ offensive line. That’s because the Rams prefer to generate pressure mainly with their front four so they can leave a maximum amount of defenders in coverage.

Cleveland’s offensive line has had some of its greatest problems against blitz-happy schemes, such as the one it faced in Houston last Sunday. Although the group has demonstrated it can’t do a whole lot better against more conventional defenses, it just might help that there are fewer defenders with which to deal with up front.

The one the Browns must concentrate the most on stopping is left end Chris Long. He had three sacks, nearly half of his season total, against the Saints. He had another against Arizona that gave the Rams a chance to win the game near the end of regulation. However, the Rams’ defensive line wasn’t able to contain mobile Cardinals’ quarterback John Skelton, who ran four times for 38 yards on the way to the Cards’ long touchdown drive.

Long isn’t particularly explosive, and that was part of the reason he went through a three-game sack drought before his breakout performance against New Orleans. What Long does have going for him is tremendous intelligence and technical soundness. He is more about constant effort and hustle than strength.

Therefore, it would make sense for the Browns to look to be as physical as possible with him and wear him down.

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