Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Seahawks-Browns game.
Seahawks KR Leon Washington vs. Browns kickoff coverage
The Browns' special-teams play, usually a strength, was a major weakness in the loss at Oakland on Sunday. The Raiders scored a touchdown on a fake field goal, and speedy KR Jacoby Ford brought back a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. The Browns hadn't surrendered a kickoff return score since Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin returned one against them on Nov. 17, 2008.
On his touchdown, Ford caught the ball in the middle of the field, then started right — which got the Browns leaning that way. As a lane toward the right sideline closed, he quickly cut toward the middle of the field, where he found a seam. Browns DB Mike Adams saw the move and lunged to tackle Ford, but the second-year return man from Clemson was just too quick. Now, Ford was in the clear at his 20, with a lot of open space to his right.
By the time he was at the 40, he had three Browns in close pursuit to beat. Ford was able to elude PK Phil Dawson's tackle attempt around the 50, skimming the Oakland sideline. Ford's teammate, rookie RB Taiwan Jones, who had just made another key play by cutting off Browns DE Auston English, then got a block on CB James Dockery. When Ford was able to elude the falling Dockery, he was home free. A diving tackle attempt by Browns rookie CB Buster Skrine inside the Cleveland 20, like every other Cleveland attempt on this play, didn't foil Ford.
Ford's touchdown was a combination of many factors. He is a talented returner, certainly, but he needed very good blocking to score. What's more, his cutback early in the return changed the entire play. The Browns were a step behind the play thereafter, it appeared.
Head coach Pat Shurmur said the Browns didn't carry out their coverage as they should have.
"A player got out of his lane and they were a team that they're kind of a bounce-return type team," he said Monday. "We got out of our lane and overplayed it and they nailed us."
Washington doesn't have a return longer than 36 yards this season, and he's gaining just 22.5 yards per return. However, he has returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns in his career. He will provide every bit the challenge that Ford (who has four career TD returns) did.