BROWNS LT SPENCER DRANGO AND RT SHON COLEMAN VS. JAGUARS DEs CALAIS CAMPBELL AND YANNICK NGAKOUE
The numbers are daunting. The Jaguars have a league-high 35 sacks, including 10 each against Houston and Indianapolis. Campbell leads the way with 11, which ranks second in the league. The Jaguars are also first in scoring defense (14.9 points per game).
The Browns aren’t running scared.
“We’re ready to go out there and play and we have a good game plan and Coach has put us in a good position,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “They’re good players, but every week you play good players. Minnesota’s front was good. Detroit’s front was good. And they’re really good. But we’re going to go out there and we’re going to compete. And we’re not intimidated by them.”
The Jaguars have a well-rounded pass rush. They get to the quarterback with their front four — Ngakoue has 6.5 sacks, backup end Dante Fowler Jr. 5.5 sacks and tackle Malik Jackson four — but will also bring their linebackers on a blitz. They had 20 quarterback hits against the Colts and are third in the league with 65 for the year.
The Browns can’t afford to let quarterback DeShone Kizer take too many hits. He suffered bruised ribs last week against the Lions when rookie tight end David Njoku missed a protection and Kizer took a helmet to the chest. He was forced to leave the game but returned and said he’s feeling better.
“You’ve got to protect extra, especially with a guy banged up,” Drango said.
“Every week it’s a goal to protect the quarterback. That’s our No. 1 goal on offense,” Bitonio said. “You don’t want him to ever take another shot like that.”
Kizer and the Browns got some good news on the injury front Friday, as Coleman (concussion) and center JC Tretter (shoulder/knee/quadriceps) returned to practice and are expected to play. Against a dominant front like the one the Jaguars have, the Browns need their top linemen.
“You want to have all your best guys out there playing,” coach Hue Jackson said. “We still have to stop what they do. It is still a tall challenge.”
Of course, the Browns are without All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas, who was lost for the year Oct. 22 with a torn triceps tendon. Drango has filled in admirably, although he and Coleman could use help from the tight ends and running backs against Campbell and Ngakoue. Campbell has been feared for years and brings a unique skill set at 6-foot-8, 300 pounds.
“He’s a strong guy, and he’s really big and is good with his hands,” Drango said. “So you try to stop one move, because he likes to bull (rush) a lot, a lot of big guys do. If you try to stop that, he can hit you with a hand move, get you off-balance. He’s a very good player.”
The Jaguars move their linemen across the front, so every Browns blocker will be tested. Ngakoue and Fowler bring the speed to complement Campbell’s power.
The Jaguars have been a bit boom or bust in the sack department. They have the two 10-sack games but were blanked last week in an overtime win over the Chargers and had only one in a loss to the Titans.
“Hopefully, we can be like one of the other games where teams have slowed them down a little bit more,” Bitonio said.