Here are three takeaways from Wednesday's press conferences with Brandon Staley, Austin Ekeler and Linval Joseph:
Preparing for the Browns' two-headed rushing attack
The Chargers' defense has faced no shortage of elite playmakers on offense just four games into the season. Week 5 poses yet another challenge for the Bolts' defensive unit as the Browns roster a rushing duo in running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The pair has contributed to an NFL best 177 net rushing yard per game. On Wednesday, head coach Brandon Staley talked about what makes Hunt and Chubb 'elite runners' in this league.
"[Kareem Hunt] certainly is an outstanding runner," Staley said. "[He] can catch the ball too and then Nick Chubb, he's such a powerful runner and he's got speed too, as much as he's a power runner this guy can really run too. It's a really, really good tandem right now. It's as good a tandem as anybody in the NFL…these two guys are as good as it gets on contact, that's what the data will tell you."
For a veteran defensive lineman like Linval Joseph, every week is a week to prove what the Chargers are made of. Joseph talked about what the defensive line has to do when preparing for the Cleveland backfield. Joseph explained the importance of allowing just short one- or two-yard gains on Sunday.
"This week, preparation is all about making sure we are lined up in the right gaps," Joseph said. "Making sure we know what we're doing, making sure we are all in sync...like I said it's going to be a challenge; however, you want to look at it, it's going to be a challenge they got two great backs, they are both top five. I love a challenge; I can't wait for Sunday."
The phrase 'Our Way' has been used throughout the season to break down huddles, in team meetings and on the field. Running back Austin Ekeler explained the term was brought up by Staley in a leadership meeting before the season and it has stuck ever since.
Ekeler further mentioned what the phrase means to him at this part of the season.
"It's making sure that we are all on the same page and we know what we want to get done and we can all go forward and agree upon something," Ekeler said. "I love that about [coach Staley] because he's open to us, really connecting with us and makes it a really positive environment where we can go, and bounce things off each other."
Staley described what the phrase meant for him personally and for the entire organization. He explained 'you want to be known for something as a team' and those two words were the best way to make that happen.
"I really believe in the power of team," Staley said. "And I really believe that you do things together and I think when you talk about 'our way' that when I got here, when you're trying to establish something, you want to establish something that's meaningful to everyone within the organization…I think that 'our way' is something that really brings people together and that people can identify with, and you can get behind. It's just a way of bringing people together and knowing what we're fighting for."
An 'elite front' awaits the Chargers offense
On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns also have one the league's best pass rushers in Myles Garrett. Cleveland held the Minnesota Vikings to seven points in Week 4 and Staley gave high praise to the 'strength of their football team' which helped get the job done.
"They're one of the elite fronts in the league," Staley said. "They certainly have proved it so far through the first four games, and the last two weeks in particular. You're talking about two former number one draft picks up front…That's certainly a strength of their football team. [Browns DE] Myles [Garrett] is as good as it gets on the edge in the NFL."
Ekeler, who had a career day on Monday Night Football with 117 yards and two touchdowns, talked about the problems the Cleveland run defense brings to the Chargers' ground game.
For Ekeler, a big key for the Chargers against Cleveland is to create 'smoke and mirrors' in order to get the run game going on Sunday.
"You have to have a plan," Ekeler said. "You have to have a run plan of how they fit in the run and pass plan too and just mixing it up, putting a tight end over the top of them, putting motions in front of them. Just making them play football, they can't just rush the passer all day. It comes down to our gameplan…it comes down to how are we going to put a different view in front of these guys to slow them down."
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