While football is a team sport, there are always individual matchups coaches look to exploit. This is especially true at the NFL level, as proper schemes and executing said game plan is a key to a win.
Bengals edge rusher Carl Lawson versus Browns left tackle Spencer Drango:
“Mr. Durable”, AKA Joe Thomas, is out this week with an injury, so Drango takes his place. Cleveland has the fourth-highest amount of sacks given up this year with 32, while the Bengals are in a tie for fourth-best in the NFL with 29 sacks on the year.
Enter Lawson, whose rookie year has somewhat flown under the radar because of his fourth-round draft status. He has 5.5 sacks on the season and has been one of Pro Football Focus’ favorite edge rushers this season. If he gets enough snaps this week, he could make life miserable for Drango.
Bengals left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi versus Browns defensive end Myles Garrett:
Another week, another time we have to put Ogbuehi on this list. The former Texas A&M standout has had another rough year, as the Bengals pinned their hopes on him being a viable NFL left tackle in his third season.
Even though he’s missed half of the season, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick has four sacks in five games. The battle of former first round picks is definitely one to keep an eye on—especially because Garrett missed the first matchup between the two teams this year.
Bengals cornerback Adam Jones versus Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman:
Unfortunately for the Browns, their 2016 first round pick hasn’t seen much action in his first two seasons because of injuries. After playing in the first two games this year, Coleman made his return last week against Jacksonville and had six catches for 80 yards.
Jones missed last week with a concussion, while Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick appeared on the injury report this week. So, Jones will need to step up when asked to cover Coleman, as will another former first round pick, William Jackson III, as he returns to action this week.
Bengals defensive lineman Michael Johnson versus Browns right guard Kevin Zeitler:
Now, normally, we’d talk about Johnson going up against a left tackle. However, a number of his snaps (and the more productive ones in 2017) have come from when he’s lined up on the interior next to Geno Atkins in pass rush situations.
Zeitler is a mauler and was one of the Browns’ free agency prizes this spring, but can he match up well against the 6’7” Johnson when he’s kicked inside? Even if he doesn’t get past Zeitler, he could be able to frustrate DeShone Kizer by knocking down passes with his massive wingspan.
Bengals linebackers Nick Vigil and Jordan Evans versus Browns tight end David Njoku:
Njoku was largely seen as the second-most talented tight end in this year’s draft and the Browns grabbed him at No. 29 overall. Though he isn’t the “starter”, he’s been their most explosive weapon in the tight end group with three touchdown grabs this year.
Cincinnati’s defense has had some trouble consistently covering tight ends this year. Jack Doyle, Marcedes Lewis and others have made some big plays against Paul Guenther’s unit this year, so they’ll need to keep an eye on Njoku. After impressing against the Broncos in his first extended defensive action in 2017, Evans is dealing with a concussion this week, so if he isn’t available, Vigil will be one of the guys looking after the rookie tight end.