The Redskins on Sunday face a Cleveland Browns team that has won their last three games and four of their last six.
Part of the reason for the surge has been the improvement of the Browns’ young offensive players, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett says.
As they set out to rebuild their team this year, the Browns looked to upgrade their offense and drafted running back Trent Richardson third overall and quarterback Brandon Weeden 22nd overall. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz was the fifth pick of the second round and then in the supplemental draft the Browns took wide receiver Josh Gordon.
All four start on offense along with another young player, second-year wideout Greg Little.
Those players have helped Cleveland’s offense average 23.3 points a game after averaging 17.9 points through their first 10 games.
“I think they’re getting better and better every day,” Haslett said. “I’m talking about the receivers, the quarterback, the running back. Obviously, [Richardson] was nicked up early. They have a really good offensive line – a young offensive line. They’re a good football team. They’ve won a bunch of games lately, and they’ve been in every single game. This will be a good challenge for our football team.”
Richardson, who is playing with a rib injury, has rushed for four touchdowns in the last three games after managing five over the first 10 outings. Gordon – Robert Griffin III’s former Baylor teammate – has hauled in a team-high five of Weeden’s 13 touchdown passes.
And on the win streak, Weeden has posted two of his three most accurate passing performances.
Despite the promise that the young Browns have shown on offense, the unit has struggled significantly with ball security. Weeden has thrown 15 interceptions – tied for fourth in the NFL. Meanwhile, Richardson has lost three fumbles.
The Redskins’ defenders, who have recorded 15 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries, believe that the opportunity will present itself to increase those totals this week, and that that will be key to their success.
“Forcing turnovers, and turnover differential is always a key stat and it’s definitely something we thrive on as a defense,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “Any time you have a rookie, and I think Richardson has a couple fumbles also, when have a team that turns over the ball, it’s a copycat league. You want to see what their problems were in the past, and if turnovers are it, that’s something we’re going to harp on.”