Five Key Matchups That Will Determine A Win In Cleveland
Last week, the loss to the Arizona Cardinals opened many eyes on where the Washington Football team stands talent-wise. Sure, the Cardinals were simply a bad matchup for Washington as they could not contain Arizona's Kyler Murray, Larry Fitzgerald, and DeAndre Hopkins.
However, it should have also grounded any premature playoff predictions after their week one victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. Also, after the Eagles lost their next game against the Los Angeles Rams, it may be the case that Philadelphia might no be that good. The truth is somewhere in the middle, and watching key matchups helps viewers focus on how consistent and prepared Washington coaches and particular position groups are weekly.
This week, I look at five key matchups for Washington that will determine a win against the Browns.
Five: Steven Sims vs. Browns Kick Coverage:
Return specialist Steven Sims has had two bad outings collectively as the primary kick and punt return man for Washington. Cleveland offers Sims an opportunity to correct the outlook of his season to this point. According to football outsiders, the Browns rank 32nd in the NFL in their DVOA Special Teams Ratings. Their punt and kickoff coverage, as it relates to net yardage, rank among the worst in the league, and gives Sims room to take advantage of two poor units and help his struggling offense out.
Four: Washington Rush Attack vs. Cleveland Defense:
Washington has the 12th most rush attempts in the NFL so far, but they rank 31st in yards per attempt. Alternatively, the Browns defense has the 16th most rush attempts on them but allowed the sixth-fewest yards and fifth-fewest yards per attempt. This is one of Washington's most important matchups because, with the passing game struggling in every aspect so far, becoming one dimensional against the Browns can enable linemen Myles Garrett and Sheldon Richardson.
After a two-touchdown day against the Philadelphia Eagles in week one, running back Peyton Barber had just one snap on offense for Washington. However, backs J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson had good days rushing against Arizona the following week. The question moving forward is, how much of that momentum can get carried over to this week's game against a much better run defense?
Three: WFT OC Scott Turner vs. Cleveland Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods:
I don't think many would disagree with me when saying that Scott Turner's offense is beyond bad at this point. There are a variety of issues that makes that to be true. However, Turner has minimal experience and must immediately show signs of continued improvement and understanding of what the defense wants to do versus him.
Even though Turner had all off-season to understand Haskins' strong suits as a passer, he must implement what his quarterback does best early into his game-plan. To this point, we know Haskins plays better when there is a sense of urgency on his behalf, or the flow of the game is just moving at a much more rapid pace. Will Turner be able to get his quarterback going early? Can Washington have great success on offense based on a well-schemed game-plan by Turner? We will see.
Two: Morgan Moses against Myles Garrett:
Morgan Moses will have his hands full against Myles Garrett on Sunday. Garrett's impact may not be showing up on the stat sheet right now, but Garrett ranks second in their pass-rush win rate according to Pro Football Focus. Moses has had his fair reps against formidable pass-rushers to start the year, but not to Garrett's caliber, who is among the league's elite talents. Moses is also the most stable and consistent lineman on the roster right now, and Haskins will need to see a continuance of that on Sunday if Washington expects to have some semblance of an efficient offense.
One: QB Dwayne Haskins versus the Browns secondary.
Dwayne Haskins is the key to unleashing Washington's offense. Going into the season, we knew that Dwayne lacked weapons and had question marks across the board with his offensive lineman. For Washington to sustain success throughout the season, Haskins must step up immediately and make plays for his offense. Although there have not been many pass attempts against the Browns defense, they still rank 11th in yards allowed. The concern for Dwayne is capitalizing on the plays within his control and delivering accurate passes.
Additionally, third downs, for both Haskins and Turner, will be critical. The Team's offense ranks 32nd in the NFL on third downs, but the Browns defense ranks 22nd in the NFL on third downs. There is an opportunity to exploit their defense, so both the quarterback and coordinator must be on the same page from the very first snap. Ron Rivera acknowledged earlier in the week that coaches need to do a better job of getting Haskins' flowing better and earlier in games; in turn, a repeat performance of the first two weeks can create significant concerns on the perception of the WFT quarterback.
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Jamual Forrest has been a freelance sports journalist for four years, covering the Washington Football Team and can be heard as a co-host on The Hog Sty Network's "The Hog Sty" podcast. Additionally, Jamual contributes to The Hog Sty Network and SB Nation's Hogs Haven. You can follow Jamual on Twitter at @LetMualTellit and see his Washington Football Team film breakdowns here.