We previewed the trenches between the Browns Vs. Packers. 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 Aaron Rodgers up against Brandon Weeden we will compare them against each other and then note how the QB could impact the offensive weapon.
Aaron Rodgers versus Brandon Weeden
Rodgers is the best QB the Browns will face this year, and possibly is the best QB in the league. Rodgers will be without 2 of his biggest receiving threats and still will dominate this game. Rodgers makes everyone around him better and with his quick release and decision making keeps himself out of trouble.
Weeden continued his patterns last week as he returned to the starting role. He rarely looks off his primary receiver, doesn’t lead his receivers (except on deep throws) and struggles with touch near the line of scrimmage. The Browns need to control Weeden thru the use of the run game and scheming ways to keep him from mistakes. These issues were shown last year as well and this off-season the improvements were not made.
Advantage: Packers - The Packers may not have the weapons they are used to having but Rodgers makes the situation a success. If the Browns can’t get consistent pressure then Rodgers will pick them apart.
Willis McGahee versus Linebackers
McGahee will be joined by converted fullback Chris Ogbonnaya as the backfield by committee shrunk by 1 this week as Bobby Rainey was released. McGahee only got 10 carries last week for 37 yards for a respectable 3.7 yards. Ogbonnaya was targeted 12 times in the passing game last week which may take some pressure off Weeden. Against the front 3 of the Packers running lanes will be tough to find.
The Packers linebacking core is hurting greatly yet AJ Hawk is still around roaming the middle. Due to all of their injuries expect the Packers to use more defensive backs which may give advantages to the offensive line and running backs.
Advantage: Browns - Neither team has a great advantage in this area but with so many injuries the Packers should give the Browns an advantage in the running game, leading to play action passing.
Eddie Lacy versus Linebackers
Lacy has been a great balancing out the Packers offense. Lacy is a bigger back who has a little wiggle. The Browns’ struggles last week were with Bush on the outside and in the passing game. Lacy ran for 120 yards on 23 carries last week but was only targeted 1 time, a catch for 5 yards. Matching up with a strong defensive front should be a big battle. The Packers will probably use the pass to setup the run against the Browns as the Browns will do vice versa.
The Browns linebacking core had been solid in a lot of ways this year, yet last week the Lions took advantage of both ILBs in their coverage responsibilities. With Sheard returning the Browns will have more flexibility in this area. The Packers may try to get Johnathan Franklin involved in the passing game this week, which means the Browns will need to adjust from last week.
Advantage: Packers - Lacy has been solid this year and Franklin can be used in place of the injured WRs. With Rodgers keeping the defense honest it will be tough for the Browns to shut down the Pack’s runners in both aspects of the game.
Wide Receivers versus Defensive Backs
Josh Gordon, Greg Little, and Devone Bess versus Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward
Gordon is huge, both literal and figuratively, for the Browns. He didn’t play with Weeden in the first two games due to suspension. With Hoyer, and Weeden last week, Gordon opens up the entire offense. With Weeden’s big arm expect the Browns to throw deep to Gordon. Little has returned to the starting lineup as his big body fits better for Weeden. Bess is less important now as Weeden struggles at timing and option routes that Bess excels at.
The Packers are 28th in opponents pass yards this year. Partially this could be due to the defense ranking 3rd in opponents rushing yards and needing to pass to comeback against the Rodgers led offense. Williams and Shield are solid veterans but both stand 5’11″ and will struggle with Gordon’s size.
Advantage: Browns - Gordon has been dominant even without big weapons on the other side. Against the Packers defense that has given up so many yards the Browns should be able to make progress.
Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and Myles White versus Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and Leon McFadden
The Packers will be missing James Jones and Randall Cobb but Nelson is a high quality receiver. Rodgers will use his eyes to move defenders around and to put Boykin and White in better places to be competitive. Nelson will probably be matched up with Haden all day long which could make the rest of the game interesting.
The Browns will try to lock up Nelson with Haden all day. If he has able to hold down Nelson the Browns secondary can focus more on the less herald receivers. Neither stands over 6’2″, the Browns have struggled with taller receivers all year long. Expect the Packers to get more of their passing game from the backs and tight ends then the receivers.
Advantage: Browns - A healthy receiving core would more this advantage quickly. Rodgers makes any receiver much better but with Haden at top notch and Skrine playing better and better each week the Browns should be able to have good success here.
Tight Ends versus Safety
Jordan Cameron versus M.D. Jennings
Cameron has been good all year but gets less attention from Weeden. Making Cameron the focal point of many plays could benefit him, Weeden and the offense. Cameron can use his size, speed and leaping ability to take advantage of safeties and linebackers. Another place where the quarterback is vitally important is this matchup. If Weeden looks his way, Cameron should have a good game.
Jennings has been an adequate defender. Expect him to get help from other DBs and from the linebacking core. Jennings stands at 6′ but only 187 lbs which means Cameron can get physical with him.
Advantage: Browns - Expect Cameron’s breakout campaign to continue. The need to double Gordon and Cameron’s ability to find soft spots in zones will give him multiple opportunities. Weeden should try to find Cameron down the seam with a deep throw or two.
Jermichael Finley versus TJ Ward
With the 2 big injuries to the wide receiving core I expect Finley to be highly involved. The Browns have struggled with tight ends all year. Finley is a big receiver with the talent of a wide receiver. Expect the heady Rodgers to get him involved often during this game. Finley only had 3 catches last week but had 75 yards.
Ward has shown great improvement in coverage but he will have his hands full here. Ward hasn’t gotten as involved with coverage lately, instead being used in the box. The Browns have struggled all year against TEs, with linebackers not getting deep enough in their drops to stop throws over the top. Finley will be a big matchup issue for the team.
Advantage: Packers - The Browns just haven’t stopped tight ends this year well enough and the Packers Rodgers knows how to use any receiver he has available.