Coming off an embarrassing meltdown on Monday Night Football two weeks back, the San Diego Chargers will look to bounce back after a bye week to recuperate. After a promising 3-1 start, San Diego has struggled. Philip Rivers would also like to have a strong performance after being a turnover machine the past few games. Combine that with the investigation the Chargers are in because of the alleged use of “Stickum” and you have a team that would love to pick up a win in Cleveland to give them some confidence moving forward.
The Browns on the other hand only have one win, but have played tough in pretty much all of their games. After a horrid start to his career in Week 1, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has played well enough to give fans hope for the future. Rookie sensations Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon only add to the young, exciting talent on this team. Cleveland will look to play another close game and hope to sneak out of this one with a win.
Chargers Ground Game vs. Browns Run Defense
Ryan Mathews’ fumbling issues have been well documented, but it is clear that he is far and away the best running back on the roster. In 75 total touches, Mathews has tallied 12 missed tackles. The rest of the running backs on the Chargers roster have just 9 missed tackles in 127 combined touches. Mathews will be happy if left tackle Jared Gaither returns, as the improvement of him over undrafted-rookie Michael Harris is astronomical. On the other side, Jeromey Clary’s 20 QB disruptions allowed prove he has not performed well as a pass protector, but he has been a good run blocker and he will look to seal the edge on the right side.
As for Cleveland, injuries appear to have thinned out important players on the run defense. Phil Taylor was expected to be a large part of the defense, but he has yet to play this season due to injury. Fellow defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin only managed 7 snaps in last week’s game before leaving with a calf injury. However, John Hughes has performed fairly well in run defense, ranking 22nd in Run Stop Percentage with 6.6. Rookie Billy Winn has also had a strong season, and defensive end Jabaal Sheard holds his own on the edge. Safety T.J. Ward has been arguably the team’s best run defender, earning a mention in our AFC Pro Bowl balloting, as he has played over 43% of his snaps at strong safety and leads all at his position with 11 stops in the run game.
Browns Defensive Backs vs. Chargers Receivers
Cleveland is certainly glad to have its star cornerback Joe Haden back from suspension, but the secondary has not been terrible without him. Sheldon Brown has been strong at 32 years old, only allowing 1.03 yards per cover snap. Nickel cornerback Dimitri Patterson has only allowed 0.72 yards per snap while covering the slot receiver.
On the other side of the ball, it’s Malcom Floyd for the Bolts, then everyone else. Sustaining good health has been the only issue for the underrated Floyd in past seasons. He has averaged 1.88 yards per route run, far better than any other pass catcher on the team. The Chargers added Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem to help compensate for the loss of Vincent Jackson, but Philip Rivers has a QB rating of 64.4 when throwing to Meachem and 47.2 to Royal. Antonio Gates remains a strong option at tight end, but his Yards per Route Run has declined from 2.47 in 2009 to 1.24 this season. Rivers deserves blame for not playing well this season, but he certainly needs some more help.
Chargers Front Seven vs. Browns Offensive Line
The biggest strength for the Chargers this year has been the run defense. Second-year man Corey Liuget is our sixth ranked 3-4 defensive end, thanks largely to his play against the run. Veteran nose tackle Abrayo Franklin has 10 stops in the run game in only 66 snaps. When it comes to rushing the passer, OLB’s Shaun Phillips and Melvin Ingram rank 11th and 13th in Pass Rush Productivity among those who have played 25% of the team’s snaps. San Diego will need to get to Weeden to help make up for their struggling secondary.
Cleveland counters with an offensive line that has been top 10 worthy as a group this year. Left tackle Joe Thomas ranks fourth among tackles with a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 97.3. He has allowed only 10 QB disruptions in 287 snaps. Center Alex Mack has allowed only four QB pressures on the season, while guard John Greco has yet to allow one in 68 pass blocking snaps. Brandon Weeden has only completed 42.6% of attempted passes while under pressure, so it is vital that the Browns keep the Chargers out of the backfield.
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