Titans-Browns matchup of the day: Wednesday

Posted Sept. 28, 2011 @ 5:26 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Titans-Browns game: 

Tennessee's wide receivers and tight ends vs. Cleveland's pass defense

The Titans' passing game endured a major loss when WR Kenny Britt suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday's victory vs. Denver. Big, strong and athletic, Britt had played like a legitimate go-to receiver in Tennessee's first three games, catching 17 passes for 289 yards and three TDs in 26 targets.

How the Titans' passing game will adjust to the loss of Britt is something to watch. The Titans were winless in a four-game stretch without Britt last season. This coincided with QB Vince Young suffering an injury, then being banished from the club after walking out on the team following an OT loss to Washington — the Titans' second full game without Britt. Rusty Smith would start the next game at Houston, with Kerry Collins replacing him one start later. Overall, the Titans threw one TD in the four games without Britt.

However, this looks to be a stronger passing game than the Titans had a season ago. The key has been QB Matt Hasselbeck, who has completed 78-of-112 passes for 932 yards with five TDs and two interceptions. In franchise history, only Warren Moon (twice) threw for more yards in his first three starts of the season.

Even without Britt, Hasselbeck has some solid pass catchers at his disposal. WR Nate Washington, who underwhelmed in his first two seasons in Tennessee, has started strongly in 2011, catching 21-258-1 in three games (27 targets). TE Jared Cook has been targeted only seven times in three games but can stretch the field. Also, the Titans' other primary tight end, Craig Stevens, can get open downfield, too, as evidenced by a 58-yard reception vs. Denver.

Athletic Damian Williams, a second-year pro, likely will step into the starting lineup with Britt out. Lavelle Hawkins and Marc Mariani could also see more playing time after Britt's injury.

It won't be a surprise if Browns CB Joe Haden, who has played very well to begin the season, finds himself matched up with Washington. Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall, often covered by Haden in Week Three, caught four passes for 43 yards vs. Cleveland. Washington's calling card has been his ability to get deep, but he has improved on shorter routes, and such versatility won't hurt him against as skllled a cover corner as the athletic Haden.

While the Dolphins didn't have much success vs. Haden, they did have success throwing at CB Sheldon Brown, who struggled vs. WR Brian Hartline. Brown is tough and experienced but not as good in coverage as Haden is.

At safety, the Browns rely on Mike Adams and Usama Young (who each play the "free" spot) and SS T.J. Ward. CB Dimitri Patterson has been a solid contributor in nickel situations covering the slot.