National Football League

Marshall's Keys: Browns vs. Bengals

September 17

The second edition of Thursday Night Football is set for tonight, as the Cincinnati Bengals travel to take on the Cleveland Browns.

Each squad will look to avoid an 0-2 start to the season, after the Bengals fell 16-13 to the Los Angeles Chargers this past Sunday, and the Browns got drubbed by the Baltimore Ravens, 38-6, over the weekend. 

On Thursday morning's First Things First, former Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall gave his four keys to victory for the Browns, a team with high hopes entering the season that suffered an embarrassing loss just days ago to an in-division rival. 

Let's check out Marshall's roadmap to victory for Cleveland:

1. Get Odell involved early

Brandon's Take: "If you can get [Odell] within the first 15 plays – which are typically scripted – two or three wide receiver screens, this guy is someone who can save you late."

Against Baltimore, Odell Beckham Jr. was targeted 10 times, but only caught 3 passes for 22 yards.

It marked the 11th consecutive game in which OBJ failed to reach 100 receiving yards, and since arriving in Cleveland last offseason, he has had only two 100+ yard receiving performances, after having 24 in his first five seasons with the New York Giants. 

In addition, it was the sixth time he's finished with under 50 receiving yards in 17 games with Cleveland and his 13th game with no receiving touchdowns as a member of the Browns.

2. Commit to the run

Brandon's Take: "You went into Baltimore, you got your butts whooped and they put up 38, so you had to pass the ball around the field. But at the end of the day, you've got two running backs that can go for 5 or 6 yards per rush ... Commit to the run so you can help your struggling quarterback."

If we're going by one game, yes – Baker Mayfield is struggling. 

Mayfield went 21-for-39 passing for 189 yards, a TD and an interception on Sunday. He was sacked twice and posted a quarterback rating of 65.0.

However, Cleveland did have some success on the ground on Sunday. Kareem Hunt carried the ball 13 times for 72 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and Nick Chubb carried it 10 times for 60 yards (6.0 yards per carry). 

Neither man got into the endzone for Cleveland, and both fumbled on the day, but the Browns' 138 rushing yards well-eclipsed Baltimore's 107 yards on the ground, impressive considering the Ravens were the No. 1 rushing attack in all of football last season, when they averaged a whopping 206.0 rushing yards per game.

3. Look to Landry on 3rd down

Brandon's Take: "There's so much talk around Odell. There's so much talk around Baker. Let's not get lost in the shuffle. On third down, you have to go through Jarvis Landry. He is the most efficient pass-catcher on your team. He has the most chemistry with the quarterback on your team."

Jarvis Landry isn't the team's superstar wideout, but he's not far off. 

Landry was targeted 6 times on Sunday and caught 5 passes for 61 yards, including 4 for first downs, and for the 11th time in the past 17 games, Landry finished with more receiving yards than OBJ.

4. Defense can't give up the big play

Brandon's Take: "[The Browns] have to play better defense ... They did a great job of stopping a run offense that was the best in the NFL last year [in Week 1], so you have to eliminate the big plays. This secondary – which is a little banged up right now – they have to do a better job of keeping everything in front of them."

Cleveland's defensive front was indeed stout on Sunday only giving up 45 rushing yards to Lamar Jackson on 7 carries, 29 rushing yards to Mark Ingram on 10 carries, and 22 rushing yards to rookie J.K. Dobbins on 7 carries (although Dobbins did have two rushing TDs).

However, Jackson absolutely cooked them through the air.

On the day, Jackson completed 20-of-25 passes for 275 yards and 3 TDs, finishing with a passer rating of 152.1. 

Check out Brandon's entire breakdown below: 


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