Browns’ running game a tall test for visiting Chargers

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is looking forward to returning to his stomping grounds, but he won’t let familiar faces and places distract him from the task at hand, and that’s finding a way to beat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Staley was born in Perry, Ohio, about 35 miles up Lake Erie from Cleveland, and starred at Perry High School before going on to play quarterback for two years at the University of Dayton.

“I’m definitely looking forward to feeling the presence of my loved ones there,” Staley said. “I don’t know how many I’m going to get to see, but it’ll be special going back home, for sure.”

Staley has been busy with his defensive coaches trying to scheme a way to stop a Cleveland offense that ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 187.3 and fourth in total yards (384.8).

Cleveland running back Nick Chubb has surpassed 100 rushing yards in three of four games this season and is averaging 5.7 yards a carry. The Browns also have a capable backup ball carrier in veteran Kareem Hunt.

The Chargers (2-2) surrendered 131 rushing yards to Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce last week in a 34-24 win, including a 75-yard touchdown run.

Los Angeles also gave up a 50-yard touchdown run to James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars the week before.

“In all of those runs, they’ve been to the perimeter,” Staley said. “We have to have better perimeter run support. That’s where it starts.”

The Browns (2-2) have taken notice of the Chargers defense, which is ranked in the middle of the league in both rushing yards and total yards allowed per game.

“They’re a great, physical team,” Chubb said. “Especially up front, so it will be a great challenge for us.”

Los Angeles will be missing a key member of its front seven for the second straight week.

Joey Bosa injured his groin against the Jaguars two weeks ago and is expected to miss 8-10 weeks. Bosa and Junior Seau are the only players in team history to make four Pro Bowls in their first five years in the NFL.

“We got good news, in terms of he’ll be back this season, which I think is the most encouraging sign for us,” Staley said. “We just have to make sure that we bring him back the right way.”

Cleveland also received good news regarding its own prized pass rusher.

Myles Garrett missed last week’s 23-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons after sustaining a sprained left shoulder and strained right biceps in a rollover car accident on Sept. 26.

The three-time Pro Bowler returned to practice on Wednesday, but three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jadeveon Clowney still has not practiced since suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter of a 31-30 loss to the New York Jets on Sept. 18.

The Browns defensive unit will be focused on Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who has been playing through torn cartilage in his ribs, but still managed to throw for 340 yards and two touchdowns in the win against the Texans last week.

“He has all the physical traits of a great QB,” Browns safety John Johnson III said. “He’s like 6-9 behind the center. Just a big arm, physical guy. His physical presence has helped him out a lot.”

–Field Level Media

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