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Browns-Texans matchup of the day: Saturday

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Posted Nov. 05, 2011 @ 8 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Texans game.

Cleveland's tight ends vs. Houston's pass defense

Save for surrendering 100 yards to the Saints' Jimmy Graham, a rising star, in Week Three, the Texans have generally fared well against opposing tight ends this season. Houston limited Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis to four catches and 45 yards, figures that look quite good when considering Lewis, a Pro Bowler a season ago, was targeted nine times.

The Browns' top target among their tight ends, Benjamin Watson, is a tough cover in his own right. In Week Eight vs. San Francisco, Watson had one of his best games of the season, hauling in all three passes thrown to him for 64 yards. Watson possesses good speed and can give a defense trouble if he gets a free release. On a 16-yard second-quarter reception, he beat San Francisco's zone defense, finding the open space between CB Carlos Rogers and S Dashon Goldson.

On the play, Watson motioned right, and QB Colt McCoy play-faked and rolled in that direction. McCoy throws well on the run, and putting Watson in motion forces the defense to adjust to his movement across the formation. For a Browns offense that lacks a whole lot of playmaking ability and has had its issues protecting McCoy, such plays have some logical appeal to Cleveland.

Watson has been targeted 45 times, second-most on the club behind WR Greg Little (51). The No. 2 tight end on the depth chart, Evan Moore, has been targeted 23 times, catching 16 passes for 153 yards and two TDs. A converted wide receiver, Moore has good size and speed, but he hasn't been the downfield threat he was a season ago, when seven of his catches went for 20 yards or longer. None of Moore's catches have exceeded 17 yards this season.

The third tight end, Alex Smith, had a 20-yard reception at San Francisco, turning a short reception into a longer gain after a missed tackle.

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