The Cleveland Browns visit the Detroit Lions in Week 10 of the 2017 NFL season. PFF previews the top player matchups of the game.
PFFELO Ranking: 31
Coverage by: David Neumann
Matchup: Cleveland Browns offense vs. Detroit Lions defense
- RB Duke Johnson Jr. in the passing game — With half the season in the books, Johnson remains the Browns’ most targeted player in the passing game with 46 total targets. Even with an uptick in volume (Johnson had 68 targets all of last season), Johnson remains efficient. He’s averaging 1.86 yards per route run, identical to the figure he posted a season ago and the 11th best among 38 qualifying running backs this season, while also forcing 13 missed tackles in the passing game (tied for the second most among running backs). The Lions have largely done well covering running backs, yielding the fifth-best passer rating when opponents target running backs (78.8). Hue Jackson will likely try to create opportunities for his versatile back to draw the coverage of safety Tavon Wilson or linebacker Jarrad Davis, both of whom have coverage grades ranking among the bottom 10 players at their respective positions.
- G Joel Bitonio vs. DI A’Shawn Robinson — With Joe Thomas out of the lineup, Bitonio is the most consistent performer remaining on the Browns offense. Bitonio’s 84.0 overall grade is the sixth best among all guards, and he’s had just one game this season with a below-average grade (less than 70.0), which came in Week 6 against the Texans. There’s little reason to expect that to change this week against an underwhelming Lions interior defensive line. Robinson has been the best of the bunch, but has been wholly average across the board — among 117 qualifying interior defenders, Robinson ranks 51st in overall grade (79.2), 50th in pass-rush productivity (5.9), and 59th in run-stop rate (7.0 percent).
- QB DeShone Kizer vs. Lions zone coverage — With the help of a bye week, Kizer has now made it two straight weeks without getting benched by head coach Hue Jackson, which is among the more encouraging things you can say about his game through the first half of the season. The rookie quarterback has struggled in most facets, but zone coverage has proven especially vexing. Kizer has the league’s worst passer rating when facing zone at 48.5, nearly half the league average mark (87.8) and a full 16 points below the second-worst figure (Mike Glennon, 64.6). That figures to leave Kizer in a difficult spot this week against the Lions, who have the league’s fourth best passer rating allowed when playing zone coverage (73.6).
PFFELO Ranking: 16
Coverage by: Brett Whitefield
Matchup: Detroit Lions offense vs. Cleveland Browns defense
- RB Theo Riddick vs. LB Joe Schobert – Riddick has come on strong of late despite not seeing the touches he is used to. Over the past three seasons, he has been one of the most effective receiving weapons out of the backfield and 2017 isn’t any different. Riddick ranks 10th among running backs with a receiving grade of 81.7, while his 1.91 yards per route run ranks eighth. With the Lions top two weapons Golden Tate and Marvin Jones drawing tough matchups in Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Jason McCourty, Riddick could figure to be a huge part of the passing game plan. He will likely often draw Schobert in coverage, who is surrendering a passer rating against of 124.6 and has already given up three touchdowns. Schobert also has missed nine tackles and allowed 180 yards after the catch so far, which plays right into the hand of Riddick, who has forced 45 missed tackles on receptions since 2015, the third most among running backs.
- T Rick Wagner vs. Edge Emmanuel Ogbah – Cleveland’s defensive line as a unit has been the league’s worst at getting pressure on the quarterback with a pressure rate of just 27 percent. Ogbah’s 85th ranked 52.3 pass-rush grade is a big reason why. His pass-rush productivity of 5.4 ranks 101st out 110 qualifying edge rushers. Meanwhile Wagner has been near flawless in pass protection the past two weeks, surrendering just two pressures on 79 pass-block snaps. His 80.2 overall grade ranks ninth among tackles this season. If the Browns want to slow down the Lions passing attack, getting pressure on the quarterback is paramount.
- G T.J. Lang vs. DI Danny Shelton – This is the premium trench matchup of the game on both sides of the ball. Lang once again ranks in the top-10 positionally for the fourth consecutive year with an overall grade of 83.4. He has been the Lions best run blocker this season with a run-blocking grade of 79.0. Meanwhile, anchoring a defensive front that allows the fewest yards per carry at 2.8 per attempt, Shelton has been one of the league’s best run stopping big men, ranking 15th among interior defenders with a run-defense grade of 85.5. He has racked up 13 run stops so far this year on just 128 run-defense snaps. Getting the running game going for Detroit starts and ends with winning this matchup.