Joe Woods already scheming for MVP Lamar Jackson, AFC North QBs

Browns DC says “We will have our hands full every week”

Daryl Ruiter
May 28, 2020 - 4:24 pm

CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The road to the AFC North crown goes through Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The Ravens, led by reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, have won the division the last two years and the Steelers will welcome the return of Ben Roethlisberger. Joe Burrow landing in Cincinnati should also give the Bengals a boost.

Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods admitted Thursday on a Zoom call with reporters he’s already been working on plans to neutralize the three AFC North quarterbacks.

“We spent some time, I will tell you that,” Woods said.  

Since realignment and the division’s inception in 2002, the Steelers have won it eight times, the Ravens six times and the Bengals four.

The Browns haven’t won a division title since 1989 and ending that drought won’t be easy considering the gauntlet of Jackson, Roethlisberger and now Burrow they’ll have to run through.

“The one thing I would tell you is every week, it is something in the NFL,” Woods said. “There are no pushovers. There are no easy games, and there is going to be a matchup issue. That is what the NFL is about, it is all about matchups.

“We will have our hands full every week.”

Jackson, who is 20-4 as a starter, has taken the league by storm. He became the youngest first-team All-Pro QB in league history at 22 years old. He has five 100-yard rushing games and his 1,206 rushing yards last season was an NFL record for a quarterback.

Jackson is the only player in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards and throw 30 touchdowns in the same season.

“Obviously with Lamar, he is just athletic, speed and he can do it all,” Woods said. “You can have a guy accounting for him, but can that guy make the play? That is what it comes down to. We have done things to help us in terms of playing Baltimore.”

Woods can lean on the Browns Week 4 performance in Baltimore that saw them hold the Ravens 222 yards of offense in a 40-25 victory. Jackson was limited to 66 yards on nine carries while completing 24 of 34 passes for 243 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in the 15-point loss, just one of two suffered by the Ravens in the regular season.

Jackson and the Ravens bounced back in the second meeting, a 31-15 win in Week 16 that saw him run 17 times for 103 yards and complete 20 of 31 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns.

“What Baltimore does is unique in terms of their scheme,” Woods said. “Played against them last year so I am familiar with it and what they do, but we did do some things this offseason as a defensive staff to help us out with playing against a team like Baltimore.”

With the addition of Joe Burrow through the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bengals hope to make some noise too in the division this year.

“With Cincinnati, we know Joe Burrow and all the clout with him and what he did in college last year,” Woods said. “Obviously, he is going to be a great player in this league.”

There’s no question Woods and his defense will have their hands full, but he plans to lean on schemes that led to success in Denver where the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 and San Francisco where the 49ers won the NFC and advanced to Super Bowl LIV this past season.

“What I am really putting together is a combination of what I feel like has been the top defenses of the last 10 years,” Woods said. “I feel like it's going to be a really good defensive package where the guys can play fast, but I think it will cause some problems for offenses.”

This offseason, the Browns bolstered the defensive side of the ball significantly.

They signed a par of defensive linemen in Adrian Clayborn and Andrew Billings and drafted a third – Jordan Elliott in the third round, 88th overall. Help in the secondary came in the form of free agents Andrew Sendejo and Kevin Johnson. They also drafted safety Grant Delpit in the second round along with linebacker Jacob Phillips in round four.

Woods plans to maintain the team’s 4-3 base, but what will his scheme ultimately look like?

“I would like to transition into a dime system, but it is going to be something that is going to take time to get into, just because of getting their reps,” Woods said. “Eventually, I would like to have a nickel package, where we have two linebackers on the field, but also, just to create better matchups and be a little bit more diverse in our scheme, I would like to get to a dime package, where we are putting an extra safety on the field.”