Each week Colts.com will speak with a writer who covers the team the Colts are set to play that upcoming Sunday.
In Week 6, the Colts are facing the Cleveland Browns in Indianapolis. To gain more insight, we caught up with Kelsey Russo, a staff writer for ClevelandBrowns.com.
Colts.com: Losing Nick Chubb was a huge blow, however rather than making a big splash in hopes of replacing him, the team decided to stick with Jerome Ford and re-sign Kareem Hunt. How do you feel like that duo has fared in his absence?
Kelsey Russo: As a duo, they have fared really well. The Browns have had some struggles getting the run game going in the two weeks following Chubb's injury and didn't break 100 rushing yards in either game. Against the Titans, the Browns only rushed for 78 yards. Then, against the Ravens, the Browns rushed for 93 yards.
But that changed in Week 6 following the Browns bye week. Sunday's game against the 49ers demonstrated just how impactful they can be in the run game as a duo. Ford finished the game with 84 rushing yards on 17 carries, with a 22-yard run in the fourth quarter to set up the Browns for what would end up being the game-winning field goal. Hunt ran for 47 yards on 12 carries, with his longest run of the day for 16 yards. The Browns finished with 160 net rushing yards on the day.
After the Browns signed Hunt on Sept. 20, there was going to be a slight adjustment period to working Hunt back into the mix of the Browns offense. His previous knowledge of the offense, as well as the coaching staff's familiarity with his game, helped with the transition. Now, we are now seeing how effective he can be as a back for the Browns once again.
Sunday's game was an important one not only for the duo of Ford and Hunt, but also for the Browns in building the presence of their run game.
Colts.com: Deshaun Watson has been out of action for the past two games dealing with a shoulder injury. We've seen both Dorian Thompson-Robinson and PJ Walker start in his place. What are the biggest differences in the offense in your opinion when he plays compared to when he doesn't?
Kelsey Russo: I don't necessarily think there are a ton of differences in the offense. Watson can launch the ball, and he has the ability to run the ball. Both Thompson-Robinson and Walker possess those same skillsets, too. That's part of why Walker was brought into this quarterback room because of the similar skill set to Watson and Thompson-Robinson. One of Walker's strengths is in his arm, and that showed on Sunday when they faced the 49ers and the Browns finished with 174 net passing yards.
Colts.com: There's no doubt that this defense has always had talent, but it seems like Jim Schwartz taking over as the team's defensive coordinator has taken things to another level. Why do you think that is?
Kelsey Russo: It comes from the Browns also wanting to own the intangibles. Players across the board on the defensive side of the ball talk about bringing the swagger and playing with a high level of energy. They outwardly celebrate their successes on the defensive side of the ball. That's all stemmed from the way Schwartz has built this defensive approach. Those elements have created a culture not only for the defense, but its' trickled down to the rest of the team as well.
This quote about Schwartz is so telling of the impact he has had on the Browns defense so far this season.
"I think Coach Schwartz, he's definitely came in and put the culture of this defense and this entire team on an up-and-up track, for sure," cornerback Denzel Ward said this week. 'He's instilled a lot of things into me, I think into this team that guys have been feeding off of, whether that's the energy, the communication out there, just guys playing together, just his system that he's brought in and just who he is as a person and just having guys wanting to play for him and play for this team. So, he's definitely done a lot since his time being here, and he's a great coach."
Colts.com: Let's talk specifically about Myles Garrett. Widely considered one of the best pass rushers in the league, this season is only strengthening his case. What is it that makes him such a dominating presence?
Kelsey Russo: Garrett has an elite ability to beat blocks that opposing teams send at him and put pressure on the quarterback. He excels in their rush plans, and he can line up in different spots. Garrett has 5.5 sacks this season, as well as nine solo tackles and a forced fumble.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's system for the defensive line also works well with Garrett's skillset to he sees the game and can affect the game. Garrett has different responsibilities against the run and against the pass, and he knows how to be effective in those roles.
Colts.com: One of the strong suits of the Colts this season has been its offensive line, who according to PFF, are responsible for just six sacks this season. Making for an interesting battle in the trenches, how can the Browns get the upper hand?
Kelsey Russo: It definitely will be an interesting battle in the trenches, but the Browns defensive line has a number of playmakers like Garrett, defensive end Za'Darius Smith, defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to name a few. Like I mentioned above, Garrett has 5.5 sacks, nine solo tackles and a forced fumble this season. The Browns in total have 14 total sacks, with 11 of those sacks coming from guys on their defensive line.
Sunday's game against the 49ers is a perfect example for this. The Browns defensive line was basically able to move the line of scrimmage when facing the 49ers and penetrate the backfield. Their front played man coverage and were able to get vertical down the field. They put pressure on quarterback Brock Purdy and affected the way running back Christian McCaffrey could run the ball. If the Browns can continue to do so against the Colts' offensive line and move the line of scrimmage, they'll be able to get the upper hand.