3 questions the Minnesota Vikings face in a game against the Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns head out on the road to face the Minnesota Vikings, who are coming off a victory over the Seattle Seahawks after losing their first two games.
As the fourth week dawns, teams begin to form with emerging trends. The Vikings certainly have their share of strengths, including Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith and their wide receivers, and Kirk Cousins ââis playing well.
They also have their share of weaknesses and given the Browns’ strengths, these are the questions they are going to have to answer this week as they hope to secure back-to-back wins and get back firmly into the NFC North race.
1. How do the Vikings cover Odell Beckham?
With Beckham’s return, his impact on the game is significant. He managed to register five receptions and 77 yards on his debut in the season, which is a relatively modest performance given his abilities. However, what he does to opposing defenses is far more than his output.
The spacing was excellent all over the course. Unfortunately, the Browns, especially Baker Mayfield, weren’t able to take advantage of all the wide shots they had available, but the Browns were already creating better spacing and Beckham improved on it.
The Vikings have Patrick Peterson, who for three weeks didn’t quite look like a 4x All-Pro. Presumably he’s the best player for the job to cover Beckham. However, they may not be willing to allow him to do it alone. Maybe they need to remove a security to at least be able to provide help when needed.
The Bears have a great young corner at Jaylon Johnson and the Browns have still managed to find success.
Worse for the Vikings, whatever they do with Peterson, the rest of their corners struggled. Bashaud Breeland and Mackenzie Alexander did not play well for three games.
If there’s one saving grace for the Vikings, maybe it’s the fact that they’ve played two of the most prolific offenses against the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks so far. So maybe they’ll bounce back after going through a tough team roster. Either that or the Browns are just another team that can put a ton of pressure on them.
The strength of the Viking defense is in the middle. They have productive linebackers and their safeties are effective. Whether it’s Beckham or receivers like Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins, Anthony Schwartz or Demetric Felton, the Browns may be able to create shifts, especially on the sidelines.
2, Can Rashod Hill Protect Kirk Cousins?
The Vikings’ offensive line is not great. Strength is the right side anchored by Brian O’Neil, then right guard Oli Udoh is playing reasonably well. Center to left tackle is mediocre at best and Rashod Hill, their left tackle is the worst.
Kirk Cousins ââhas been sacked five times this season and three of them have come against the Cincinnati Bengals. So there are opportunities to take Cousins ââdown, but he’s not looking to keep the ball longer than necessary.
Apparently the Browns are going to park Garrett across from Hill for as long as he wants to be there. They can also kick Garrett on the inside and put Takkarist McKinley over the edge against Hill when down and distance calls for it.
As was the case against the Chicago Bears, the secondary will have to work in tandem with the front. The Vikings have good receivers in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. KJ Osborn has also been productive. If the secondary can cover them long enough to force Cousins ââto hesitate, then Garrett could feast on the quarterback again, potentially causing a turnover.
3. Can the Vikings’ defense stop an extended Browns attack?
The best situation for the Vikings’ defense is for the Browns to shrink the pitch, tie their ends tight in the game, and try to sink it down their throats. This allows them to put Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson, who are basically the two nose tackles, to obstruct the middle. Their linebackers and safeties are better than their corners.
The Browns could still be successful, but the more ground the Vikings have to cover, the greater the disadvantage.
The Browns don’t have to go five-wide to accomplish that, even if they could. They can send David Njoku, Kareem Hunt, and even Nick Chubb to space if they want to. But if the Browns come out in larger formations and throw the ball, the Vikings could be forced to put former Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson with Everson Griffen to improve their mid pass rush to try and put pressure on Baker. Mayfield.
At this point, the Browns can run straight for them. The other advantage is the fact that the more the Vikings are forced to play corners, the more their defense gets worse. Whether they want to use their size in tight widened ends, Hunt or Donovan Peoples-Jones, they can potentially dominate their defensive backs. They also have the option of deploying Anthony Schwartz and Demetric Felton to give them a ton of speed.
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