The Washington Football Team is entering its Week 3 matchup against the Cleveland Browns looking to get back in the win column after last Sunday’s dud against the Arizona Cardinals.
But for all the questions people have about the Football Team after a 1-1 start to the season, just as much uncertainty follows the also 1-1 Browns. It’s inexplicable when you consider Cleveland should be further along the timeline to contention than Washington.
At the root of questions surrounding the Browns is whether Baker Mayfield can reclaim the magic of his rookie season and solidify his role as franchise quarterback. Mayfield had a standout Week 2 performance in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals -- 16-of-23, 219 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception -- but former Washington defensive back DeAngelo Hall thinks he’ll have a tough time replicating that success against Washington’s defense.
“This is for Baker Mayfield, baby. Beware, Baker Mayfield, because that Washington defensive line is coming,” Hall said on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.” “And so [Browns head coach] Kevin Stefanski has to lean on this run game. He can’t just drop Baker Mayfield back. These pass rushers have struggled a little bit when you talk about stopping the run. But when you say, ‘just drop back and go get the quarterback,’ they go get the quarterback.”
As a team, Washington hasn’t been all that bad against the run, allowing just 217 yards through the first two weeks of the season, the NFL’s 11th lowest total -- 67 of those yards came from Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, who also has the only two rushing touchdowns Washington has allowed this season. But Sunday will be Washington's toughest test against the run in Cleveland’s two-headed backfield of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Browns are second in the NFL with 176.5 rushing yards per game.
If Washington gets off to a slow start, as it has the first two games of the year, it'll have to deal with that run game, and Mayfield won't be subjected to the ferocious edge rushers Washington possesses. If Washington can keep the game close or even get ahead, Cleveland will be faced with perhaps its toughest test against the pass rush this season. Washington leads the NFL with 11 sacks entering Sunday, so when Mayfield drops back, Hall thinks he could be in trouble.
“Eight sacks against Carson Wentz in Week 1,” Hall said. “Obviously, we know how Week 2 fared, Kyler Murray is a little bit different of a quarterback to where he’s so elusive. And so, Baker Mayfield has that, a little bit of elusiveness, but he doesn’t seem to want to run as much. So, Ima be looking at that Washington defensive line. So, Baker, better be ready.”