In general, if Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips can shut down an opposing offense, the odds that the Rams go on to lose the game are infinitesimal (putting aside last year’s Super Bowl). In fact, if the Rams are able to shut down an opponent, they are likely to blow them out. This week, the Rams will attempt to do just that in Cleveland against Baker Mayfield. Los Angeles has the pieces to suffocate the Browns but how they use them will be paramount. Here is the best way to lockdown Baker Mayfield on Sunday Night Football.
How Wade Phillips Can Shut Down Baker Mayfield On Sunday
Setting The Stage
On paper, the Browns should have an offense that ranges from solid to explosive. With wide receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. (who is fourth in receiving yards right now), Jarvis Landry, and running back Nick Chubb, the Browns have enough pieces to move the ball consistently against most teams. However, the heart of the team is also its biggest weakness.
The Key To It All
Baker Mayfield, while proven to be good enough to give any team a run for their money, is the weakest link and can be taken advantage of. Specifically, his lack of experience is what can be exploited. While many fans think of defenses only taking advantage of the inexperience of rookies, teams can often fool second-year quarterbacks almost as much. Since Sunday will only be Mayfield’s 18th career start, the Rams can still take advantage of the fact that he hasn’t had time to see and figure out every defensive formation under the sun.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams showed how Baker Mayfield can be fooled. If one watched the Browns play the New York Jets on Monday Night Football, they would have seen many instances of how Gregg Williams was able to fool Mayfield through defensive alignments and pre-snap shifts.
The Rams should follow the lead of Williams on Sunday. For example, in the secondary, they could show a “Cover 2” look that invites a deep shot and then actually play a “Cover 4” coverage, one of the best coverages versus deep shots. Even if Baker were to fail to throw into the triple or quadruple coverage that would then be in place, he would have to hold the ball longer as he looks to find another open receiver. This would give extra time for the pass rush to arrive and pressure or sack Mayfield.
Speaking of pressure, the Rams should employ extra blitzes this week in order to attack a suspect offensive line. While any blitz should have a good chance of overwhelming the line, actually getting to Mayfield could prove to be tricky. In order to help the blitz turn into sacks, the Rams will need to confuse Mayfield as to where they will be coming from.
In order to do that, Wade Phillips needs to understand Mayfield’s tendencies. Namely, his inclination to scramble to the left or right preemptively. It seems that Mayfield is anticipating pressure from one side and thus scrambles away almost as soon as the ball is snapped in order to buy time for the play to develop. If the Rams were to play their cards right, this could be used against Mayfield with great success.
If the Rams were to be able to fool the young Browns quarterback into thinking that the blitz was coming from the right when it is actually coming from the left, he will be much more likely to run directly into sacks. If this happens enough, Mayfield will be in trouble. Put simply, the more the Rams blitz the quarterback, the better.
Of course, when teams blitz often, they invite shots over the top or quick slants that can take advantage of lighter secondaries that will usually be forced into man-to-man battles across the field where, if the defender loses the battle with the receiver, the play will often go for a lot of yards. However, luckily for the Rams, they have the personnel to handle that man-to-man coverage requirement. If they didn’t, the idea of blitzing would be a much more dangerous risk.
Putting It Together
Overall, if the Rams are able to take advantage of Baker Mayfield’s inexperience on Sunday Night Football, they should be able to render him mentally overwhelmed and ineffective by the end of the game. If Wade Phillips is able to employ different looks in the secondary and upfront while blitzing often, the Browns quarterback could be in for one of his worst games yet. If that happens, the Rams offense will be more than enough to make this game a statement on one of the biggest stages in sports.