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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Bengals-Browns game.
Browns tight ends vs. Cincinnati's linebackers and defensive backs
The Browns are deep and skilled at tight end. This is one of their clear offensive strengths, one that could help them compenstate for a lack of proven playmakers at wide receiver.
TE Benjamin Watson led the Browns in catches (68), yards (763) and TD receptions (three) in 2010. He hauled in two-thirds of the passes thrown his way, and no other Cleveland player was targeted more in the passing game. Watson can get lost in the shuffle in the discussion of the game's accomplished tight ends, but he can be a tough cover for linebackers and defensive backs alike.
The same can be said for Evan Moore, a converted wide receiver. Moore had a pair of TD catches in the preseason and is a player on the rise. Moore can be used like a wideout and could find himself matched up with Bengals CBs Leon Hall and/or Nate Clements at times Sunday.
Hall and Clements are a solid starting tandem. Hall, the Bengals' top cornerback, has good instincts and ball skills but not elite speed. Clements, who's best in zone coverage, is a strong, physical cornerback who can be a little too aggressive at times.
How Bengals MLB Rey Maualuga and SLB Manny Lawson fare in coverage situations against the tight ends could be key. Lawson, who replaces Maualuga on the strong side with Maualuga moving into what was Dhani Jones' spot in the middle, defended a career-high six passes a season ago. WLB Thomas Howard has the best speed of the Bengals' starters at his position.
Bengals SS Chris Crocker has plenty of AFC North experience and has played free safety in the past, too. New starting FS Reggie Nelson is athletic, but his play has been up-and-down during his career.