PFF Preview: Browns @ Bills, Week 13
The 2014 NFL Draft saw its first trade involve the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills as the Bills swapped spots to grab Sammy Watkins in hopes of adding a dynamic element to their lackluster passing attack. The Browns gained the Bills’ first-round pick next year and eventually (after another trade) picked Justin Gilbert to shut down receivers like Watkins opposite side Joe Haden. Fast forward six months to Ralph Wilson Stadium, freshly plowed of the avalanche of snow, as the Bills (6-5) host the Browns (7-4) in a battle that will most likely eliminate the loser from playoff contention.
While a Gilbert and Watkins matchup would be a great story to measure who won this trade, after early-season struggles and the rise of K’waun Williams, the Oklahoma State product is sitting at fourth on the depth chart and has only seen 39 snaps the past four games including none in Week 11 vs Houston, despite having four of his past five games above +0.9 in coverage. The man Watkins will face is Haden, who has tracked opposing teams top wide out all year. Like Gilbert, Haden struggled early in the season but that was against Antonio Brown, Jimmy Graham, and Steve Smith Sr. In the past six weeks, Haden is the fourth best cornerback at +9.0 including a 46.9 QB Rating when throwing his direction grabbing two INTs and four pass defenses. This improved play has come while he has been the fifth-most-targeted cornerback in the NFL going 4.7 cover snaps per target and giving up just 0.98 Yards per Cover Snap on 245 snaps (third highest). Needless to say, Haden is back to his 2013 Pro-Bowl form that made him the league’s highest paid cornerback.
Watkins’ rookie year has shown flashes of brilliance mixed with head scratchers. The Clemson standout has had highs, games of 157 yards and 122 yards, and lows, games with just 19 yards and 27 yards. These inconsistencies are expected from rookie receivers adjusting to the speed and athleticism of the NFL, but since Watkins has been quiet for three straight games, an electric game may just be around the corner. Robert Woods just had a monster game against the Jets last week (+5.1 receiving grade) so the Browns may leave Haden on an island with Watkins, to allow more favorable coverage with Woods. Watkins’ 1.61 Yards per Route Run in 426 snaps (most of rookies) shows his inconsistent play, but the long plays of 84 yards and 61 yards highlight the big play ability of the young star.
Josh Gordon – Gordon will be spoken about a lot after missing the first 10 games of the year and for good reason. In first game back, he casually put up 120 yards with a +2.6 receiving grade and 3.53 Yards per Route Run.
John Greco – Much love is given to Joe Thomas and rookie guard Joel Bitonio, but Greco deserves his share too. Greco is average in pass protection (-0.5), but is the fifth-best run-blocking guard (+9.5) just behind Bitonio (+12.8).
Barkevious Mingo – Mingo is quietly having a strong year. Drafted for his pass rushing potential, he has flourished as a run defender (+8.1). With five straight positive games, four of them green, Mingo has been the third best 3-4 OLB +10.6 overall) during that timeframe.
Kyle Orton – Orton is tied for the league-low three INTs (except Michael Vick). His 77.4 Accuracy Percentage is fourth in the NFL while his 974 yards in the air is 25th.
Marcell Dareus – Probably the most consistent defensive lineman for the Bills, Dareus had a streak of seven green-graded games come to an end last week and he barely missed green (+1.0). At +21.3, Dareus is fourth-best in the NFL at defensive tackle, just ahead of teammate Kyle Williams (+20.0)
Preston Brown – The rookie linebacker from Louisville is looking like a steal in third round. With a +7.5 overall grade, Brown has recorded five straight positive grades including a +5.4 explosion in Week 8. Brown has an impressive 36.5 Tackling Efficiency which bests Von Miller for tops in the NFL.
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