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Titans-Browns matchup of the day: Saturday

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted Oct. 01, 2011 @ 8:25 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

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

Cleveland's special-teams coverage vs. Titans RS Marc Mariani

Mariani earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie after showing uncommon versatility and playmaking ability as a returner. Mariani, who played collegiately at Montana with now-former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher's son Brandon, averaged 25.5 yards on kickoffs and 12.2 yards on punts, and he returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns.

Mariani has yet to return a kickoff in 2011, as all 11 opponent kickoffs to Tennessee have resulted in touchbacks. But that streak could end Sunday. Browns PK Phil Dawson has forced touchbacks on just four of 14 kickoffs. Opponents are averaging 21.8 yards on kickoff returns vs. Cleveland, with a long return of 35 yards. 

While the Browns' kickoff coverage has been solid, their punt coverage has been lacking. Opponents have returned just three punts vs. Cleveland, but they have gone for 12, 15 and 16 yards. Last season, Browns opponents racked up just 7.1 yards per punt on average. 

Mariani is off to somewhat of a slow start on punts. He's gained just 45 yards on eight returns, with a long of 12 yards.

Browns P Brad Maynard (38.4-yard net average, 10 punts) was very good in his debut at Indianapolis but not as sharp last week vs. Miami.

Rookie CB Buster Skrine paces the Browns with five tackles (four solo), with LB Kaluka Maiava (two tackles) another solid performer.

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