We previewed the trenches between the Browns Vs. Bengals, both offensives lines versus the opposing front sevens. Today we complete our game match-up preview by looking at the offensive weapons versus those called to defend them. Each of the weapons are impacted by the quarterback throwing the ball. Instead of matching Andy Dalton up against Brandon Weeden we will compare them against each other and then note how the QB could impact the offensive weapon.
Andy Dalton versus Brian Hoyer
Dalton has been a solid if unspectacular quarterback since entering the league. So far this season Dalton is completing 67% of his passes for almost 800 yards. He has thrown 5 TDs with 3 INTs and 1 fumble for a Total QBR of 62.5 and a QB Rating of 93.2. Yet, as we found out from their local site, fans are not happy with Dalton’s performance. Many feel he is holding the team back. This seems to be off considering the Bengals currently rank 10th in passing offense.
Brian Hoyer had a up and down game in Minnesota with 3 INTs in the middle of his first start as a Brown. Hoyer’s game is looked at as a success as he finished on the upswing, leading the team on the game winning drive. Hoyer doesn’t have great protection, or a run game, so he may be asked to do more then expected against the tough Bengals defense. Hoyer’s quicker release and football IQ should assist him, as should the injuries to multiple Bengals DBs.
Advantage: Bengals - While his fans might not see him as well as his stats, Dalton has led a productive offense so far. The two QBs will most likely have to carry their teams as the teams’ front 7s on defense are stout against the run. Expect Dalton’s experience and skilled players to make the biggest difference on Sunday.
Willis McGahee (?) versus Linebackers
McGahee will be joined by rookie Bobby Rainey and converted fullback Chris Ogbonnaya as the backfield by committee. Last week these 3 ran for 49 yards on 14 carries. McGahee, the most proven and talented of the 3, had just arrived in Cleveland the previous Thursday. He has had the week to prepare with the team and learn the new offense and protection schemes. Expect a slightly better day from him with more carries. None of the 3 will scare the Bengals linebackers but could be used on screens and draws to take advantage of an aggressive defense.
The Bengals linebacking core is full of talent. They have tendencies to overplay the run and get caught on cutbacks but are talented enough, and have a quality defensive line in front of them, to make up for mistakes. Due to their front 4 the Browns will oft keep a back or tight end in to block which can allow the linebackers to leave their coverage and converge on a blitz. Expect a big game out of them on Sunday.
Advantage: Bengals - The Browns do not have the line to block the front 4 so will need protection help from the backs. The backs for the Browns don’t have the ability to scare the Bengals by their breakaway abilities. It is possible that either McGahee or Rainey has a long break away run but besides that run expect a low YPC in this match-up of Ohio.
BenJarvis Green-Ellis versus Linebackers
Green-Ellis is the starter but he gives way to rookie Giovani Bernard, who provides more of a speed threat for their offense. Green-Ellis has been a solid starter for years in the NFL, starting in New England. He doesn’t have big play ability, think McGahee but a little younger, but does provide strong balance to Bernard. The rookie is more likely to make an impact in this game based on the Browns’ ability to shutdown interior running. Bernard could take advantage on outside runs, similar to Bernard Pierce of the Ravens.
With Jabaal Sheard most likely out the game, DC Ray Horton will have less ability to be creative with his 3 pass rushers. The positive is that rookie Barkevious Mingo, who would start in Sheard’s place, has the speed to catchup with Bernard. ILBs Jackson and Robertson cover sideline to sideline well enough to keep the running game down. They are also above average in coverage, with Jackson’s veteran instincts helping him decipher plays quickly.
Advantage: Browns - The Browns have held some of the best backs in the NFL below their averages. This week is their easiest test in that regard so far. Expect the Browns, like the Bengals, to shut down the run game and require the Bengals to pass.
Wide Receivers versus Defensive Backs
Josh Gordon, Greg Little, and Devone Bess versus Leon Hall, Adam Jones and Terrence Newman
The return of Gordon was huge for the team last week. Not only did he have over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown, he also had a end around for 22 yards. Gordon’s return opens up the game for Bess and Little underneath. Another interesting wrinkles OC Norv Turner could put in is with speedster Travis Benjamin. By putting Gordon on one side and Benjamin on the other and running them on deep routes the Bengals will either have to put safety help on both sides totally opening up the underneath and middle of the field or risk one of them breaking up open deep with their speed.
So far Hall has not practiced, while Newman was limited early in the week. Jones, who had a little run in with the law this week, has been on the field but the other backup, Dre Kirkpatrick, has also been limited. If Hall, a All Pro type corner, is unable to play the Bengals will have to get creative in coverage. With a stout front 4, the Bengals often drop 7 in coverage and allow their line to get in on the rush. Without their top, and perhaps another, corner they may chose to bring more blitzes.
Advantage: Browns - A healthy defensive back field for the Bengals would be a toss up but with Hall’s injury and the return of Gordon the Browns will exploit the match-ups available to them. The DBs will have a good pass rush from their front so the damage should be less then for them then for other teams losing their top CB.
AJ Green, Mohamed Sanu and Dane Sanzenbacher versus Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and Leon McFadden
Green is one of the top 5, maybe top 3, wide receivers in the game today. On the year Green has a solid line of 19 receptions, 249 yards and 3 TDs. Green provides the type of threat that the Browns hope Gordon can be consistently one day. He opens up the underneath and other side of the field for the other receivers and tight ends. Green has excellent body control and hands that allow him to catch passes even while well covered. Expect Joe Haden to shadow Green all day, as he has in the past. Sanu and Sanzenbacher haven’t lit the world on fire across from Green this year. The Bengals often use 2 receivers sets, as the ex-Buckeye has only 1 reception so far on the year. Green is the key here, last year against the Browns he had 7 catches in each game and scored 3 TDs.
Haden is a tough CB with great coverage and ball skills. He gives up a few inches to Green though which has allowed Green to make catches over him often. Skrine improved greatly last week but that could be more due to the QB and weapons he was facing. Outside of Haden the Browns are relatively weak, experience for McFadden and Chris Owens can help but lack of talent and size will play a huge role.
Advantage: Bengals - While Haden plays Green tough he hasn’t stopped him from scoring. In a game where passing will be used often the Bengals and the accurate Dalton should be able to find open receivers if given enough time by their quality offensive line.
Tight Ends versus Safety
Jordan Cameron versus Reggie Nelson
Cameron has continued to succeed even after the rest of the NFL has taken notice of him. The Browns have done a good job of putting him in places to win his battles, whether on the line, in the slot or split out wide. His size, speed, leaping ability and body control gives him advantages over both DBs and LBs depending on who is covering him. The return of Gordon only increased his play making ability and openness.
Nelson is a veteran whose best years are behind him. The possible loss of Hall will put more pressure on the Bengals to double Gordon which might put Nelson, another DB or a LB in single coverage against Cameron. Nelson lacks the athletic ability but makes up for it with his veteran moxxy. Nelson will try to out physical Cameron in coverage when possible.
Advantage: Browns - Expect Cameron’s breakout campaign to continue. The need to double Gordon, without Hall, and Cameron’s ability to find soft spots in zones will give him multiple opportunities. New QB Hoyer shows great touch and accuracy on his passes, and trust Cameron.
Jermaine Gresham/Tyler Eifert versus TJ Ward
Sometimes there are 2 players listed in our previews due to injury or performance. In this case they are both listed because they both play alot and are uber talented. Gresham, the 4 year veteran 1st round pick has 15 receptions on the young season. At 6’5″ he provides match-up issues all over the field and has burned the Browns often in the past. Eifert, the rookie 1st rounder out of Notre Dame, only has 9 receptions but is still a threat standing 6’6″ with great hands. The height alone makes these match-ups difficult for Ward, or anyone. How much the Browns trust Haden on Green with decide how much attention is given to the two tight ends in the middle of the field. Expect one or both to have good games on Sunday as they are the best tight ends Cleveland has faced this year.
Ward has shown great improvement in coverage but he will have his hands full here. Ward stands 5’10″ while the other safety Tashaun Gipson stands at 5’11″. The Browns will need to be physical with the tight ends on the line to attempt to disrupt their routes and timing without giving up seam passes over the top. Expect to see creative coverage on the tight ends for this game.
Advantage: Bengals - The two large tight ends can impact the game in multiple ways, and will. With an improved pass rush from the Browns, Dalton will need them as check down receivers over the middle. Dalton historically does a good job of finding them.
Totals: Yesterday both defensive front 7s were given the advantage in their previews. Today the Bengals are seen with the advantage at QB, against the Browns’ RBs, at WR and TE. The Browns have the advantage against the Bengals’ RBs, at WR and TE as well. Given that the advantage goes to the Bengals based on QB play. The 2 teams have the same advantages except for at the QB position, which may play a huge role in the game. Bengals 5 Browns 4 in our Match-up Previews.