Browns must protect QB Mayfield from Washington's "wreckers"
CLEVELAND (AP) — The last time Baker Mayfield faced a talented, quarterback-seeking defensive line anchored by the No. 2 overall draft pick, things didn't go well.
The San Francisco 49ers menaced and mauled Mayfield last season.
On Sunday the Browns' QB faces Washington's ferocious front.
“Game wreckers,” Mayfield said while describing a unit led by rookie Chase Young that leads the NFL with 11 sacks after two weeks.
Protecting Mayfield will be one of the primary objectives for the Browns (1-1), who are looking to keep their momentum rolling after rebounding from a brutal opener by beating the Cincinnati Bengals 35-30 last Thursday night.
Cleveland has used the extra days off to get healthier and prepare for Washington's talented and deep D-line, which is stacked with first-round picks and can create pressure from inside and the edge.
In Week 5 last year, the 49ers had Mayfield scrambling for his safety on almost every snap in a 31-3 loss. He was sacked four times, harassed numerous others, completed just 8 of 22 passes for 100 yards and threw two interceptions.
It may have been the low point in a season of lows for Mayfield and the Browns. It was also a good lesson for the third-year QB as the Niners showed some new defensive looks.
This time, he feels more prepared for what might be coming.
“Just what they are trying to do, let those guys go make plays,” said Mayfield, who wasn't sacked by Cincinnati. "San Fran had where they put the five bigs in the game and said one on one, somebody is going to win. We are not seeing that with Washington. That does not mean they can’t show up and do that because they have the personnel. It is just different schematically, but yes, talent-wise, very similar.”
The Niners had Joey Bosa, fresh out of Ohio State. The Redskins have Young, another Buckeye who is already proving to be worth his high selection. His 2 1/2 sacks are tied for the league lead.
“Just a freak of nature,” said Browns rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills, who may be matched up at times against Young. "You do not see a lot of guys like him around the league. He just has a lot of size and ability and a lot of speed and power, which is a good combination of everything you need.”
RUN, RUN, RUN
The Browns churned out 215 yards rushing against the Bengals and fullback Andy Janovich said it “could have had 300 or 400 — if we wanted.”
Get to used to it.
Cleveland's going to lean on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, two backs capable of ripping off a touchdown run from anywhere on the field.
“It gives a boost to the offense — especially the offensive line — when you’ve got a guy that all you need to do is give him a crack,” said Washington coach Ron Rivera. "They’ve got two guys that can do that.”
RIGHT IS ALL RIGHT
The Browns will be at full strength to handle Washington's rush as right tackle Jack Conklin returns from an ankle injury suffered in Week 1.
Conklin, who signed a three-year, $42 million deal as a free agent with Cleveland in March, said the Browns have their hands full with Washington's line.
“Obviously they’re a great front and they’re playing really well,” he said. ”They’ve got some young guys up there that are doing a great job and really coming together and working as a group. It’ll be a great challenge for us this week to keep everybody clean."
Because Dwayne Haskins only started seven games as a rookie, the 2019 first-round pick is still making some mistakes like a first-year pro quarterback.
Rivera in particular wondered aloud if Haskins being so hyped up is contributing to jitters early in games, because the Ohio State product settles in nicely.
Haskins lost a fumble in Washington’s Week 2 loss at Arizona and is learning on the fly.
“The biggest thing is just trusting the play, playing the play out and not letting the last play affect the new play and just focusing on what my reads are and not trying to bypass a 1 or 2-yard completion that could be a first down and try to throw a 15, 14-yard curl route,” Haskins said. “Just trying to make sure the play and completion game moves us down the field.”
The Browns got three expected defensive starters back this week as linebacker Mack Wilson (knee) and cornerbacks Greedy Williams (shoulder) and Kevin Johnson (lacerated liver) returned from injuries suffered in training camp.
It's not known how much they'll play Sunday to help a defense that has given up 69 points in two games.
Washington got what Rivera called good news on standout right guard Brandon Scherff, who will only miss a few weeks and not the entire season with a right knee injury. Scherff got rolled up on last week against the Cardinals.
Veteran free agent pickup Wes Schweitzer could start in Scherff’s place. He replaced Scherff against Arizona, but Rivera was noncommittal this week.
“I thought Wes did a nice job,” he said. “We’ve got a good slew of offensive linemen. We’re going to be working a lot of guys."
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL