NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 7 Preview: Titans at Browns

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 11: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans runs the ball during a game against the Denver Broncos at Nissan Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Broncos 13-10. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The Tennessee Titans visit the Cleveland Browns in Week 7 of the 2017 NFL season. PFF previews the top player matchups of the game.

Coverage by: Sam McGaw

Matchup: Tennessee Titans offense vs. Cleveland Browns defense

  • QB Marcus Mariota vs. Edge Myles Garrett – Despite being limited with a hamstring injury, Mariota was PFF’s highest-graded quarterback in Week 6 with a mark of 88.5. While the injury hindered his mobility, he still thrived under pressure, completing six of seven passes for 129 yards and one touchdown with a passer rating of 158.3. His ability to stay cool under pressure will be crucial against one of the league’s top emerging pass-rushers in Garrett. Since playing in his first game in Week 5, Garrett leads all edge defenders with a pass-rushing productivity of 22.1. He has a pass-rushing grade of 81.1, which ranks 21st among edge defenders.

Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Tennessee Titans

  • TE Delanie Walker vs. LB Joe Schobert – Through the first four games of the season, Walker ranked second among tight ends with 2.09 receiving yards per route run. His production has dipped significantly over the last two weeks, as he’s averaged 0.79 receiving yards per route run during that span. Walker is in a prime bounce-back spot against the Browns. Of the handful of defenders he’ll be matched up against, Walker will most likely be able to exploit the coverage of Schobert. This season, Schobert has allowed 1.39 receiving yards per coverage snap, which ranks seventh among linebackers. He’s given up 16 catches on 21 targets for 214 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterbacks targeting him average a passer rating of 147.6.
  • WR Eric Decker vs. CB Jamar Taylor – With wide receiver Rishard Matthews expected to be shadowed by cornerback Jason McCourty, Decker will have a favorable matchup against Taylor. Decker is coming off his best outing of the year in which he ranked ninth among receivers with an average of 2.93 receiving yards per route run. Quarterback Marcus Mariota averaged a passer rating of 107.4 when targeting Decker against the Colts. Taylor has given up 25 catches on 33 passes thrown into his coverage for 383 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterbacks throwing at him average a passer rating of 143.9, good for the second-highest rate among cornerbacks.

Coverage by: David Neumann

Matchup: Cleveland Browns offense vs. Tennessee Titans defense

  • QB DeShone Kizer vs. Titans man coverage — After a one-week experiment with Kevin Hogan, the Browns will turn back to their rookie quarterback this week against the Titans. Tennessee has used man coverage on 49.4 percent of passes this season, the fourth-highest rate in the league through six weeks. Though you might hesitate to call Kizer “good” in many facets, he has been better against man coverage than zone coverage. When facing zone coverage, Kizer’s 44.3 passer rating tops only Matt Cassel among quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts; against man coverage that figure improves to 67.6, ranking 25th of 34 qualifiers. The primary reason for that difference? Kizer has thrown six interceptions when facing zone, but zero against man.

DeShone Kizer, quarterback, Cleveland Browns

  • G Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler vs. DI Jurrell Casey — Cleveland’s guards have had bumps in the road this season, but both Bitonio and Zeitler have put together solid campaigns overall through the first six games and currently rank among the top 16 guards in overall grade. Pass protection has been the strongest phase for both players, where Bitonio holds the second-highest pass block grade (87.9) and Zeitler comes in at 10th (82.2). They’ll have their hands full with, who owns the 10th-best pass-rush grade among interior defenders on the season. Casey moves all around the Titans’ defensive front, so he’ll see action against both Bitonio and Zeitler on Sunday.
  • RB Isaiah Crowell vs. LB Wesley Woodyard — Crowell has struggled to get it going on the ground this season, with his overall grade falling from 74.4 in 2016 to 53.4 in 2017, ranking 43rd out of 52 qualifying backs. A season ago, Crowell averaged 3.18 yards after contact per carry (fifth), but that’s all the way down to 2.30 yards this year (35th). Woodyard, on the other hand, has been one of the best run-stuffing linebackers in football this season. In his 10th season, Woodyard has recorded 16 run stops on 142 run snaps (11.3-percent stop rate, fifth) and has missed just one tackle in the run game.

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