Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Ravens-Browns game.
Ravens WRs Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin vs. Browns CBs Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown
Haden, 22, merits Pro Bowl consideration. He has defended 16 passes, and he has proven very difficult to beat in coverage. Haden closes quickly and really does well on short and intermediate routes. If he's in close coverage on these types of throws, and the ball is thrown where he can make a play on it, he is very adept at getting a hand in and knocking it away.
However, Haden did give up a pair of long catches to Bengals WR A.J. Green on Sunday. Both times, Green used his size and leaping ability to snatch the ball out of midair. Green's final catch of the game — a 51-yarder that set up the eventual game-winning field goal — was utterly highlight-reel. There was nothing Haden could have done, given where the ball was thrown and how Green leaped to catch it with Haden in a trail position.
Any matchups pitting Smith and Haden should be fun to watch. Smith, a rookie from Maryland, has exceptional speed and can probably beat Haden vertically. However, on shorter throws, the more experienced Haden — an outstanding athlete in his own right, mind you — probably has the advantage. Haden should also match up well with the physical Boldin on shorter routes, too. Boldin burned then-Browns CB Eric Wright for three touchdowns in the first meeting with Cleveland last season, but he had just two catches for 15 yards in the rematch in Cleveland, when Brown and Haden were the starting cornerbacks and Wright was out for the season.
Brown is savvy and physical. He can hold up well on shorter routes. He could struggle if matched up with Smith on vertical routes.
In addition to the Browns' coverage from the cornerbacks, the Browns' safeties will be key to limiting Smith's big-play opportunties.