The Cleveland Browns defeated the Bengals in the latest Battle of Ohio last week.
But Week 3 brings another State Skirmish to FirstEnergy Stadium.
Denzel Ward defends against fellow Ohio State alum Terry McLaurin in a Battle of the Buckeyes.
And It could be a winner-take-all event as McLaurin accounts for almost half the Redskins passing attack.
Denzel Ward VS Terry McLaurin 🤔
(Ward in single coverage)
🔸 86.5 coverage grade
🔸 8 targets
🔸 2 recs. for 14 yards, 1 TD
🔸 4 forced incompletions pic.twitter.com/KEmEahbWdv
— Wizskins (@Itswizskins) September 22, 2020
There was a time when Ward and McLaurin lined up as gunners on the same Ohio State punt team.
But their situation is decidedly adversarial this week.
Each team has a chance to be 2-1 by the end of the day as they fight to stay relevant early in the season.
Ward’s Pro bowl chops will be put to the test against the second-year receiver.
McLaurin is on pace for almost 100 receptions and 1400 yards through two games.
He is averaging an impressive 15.5 yards per catch, just off last year’s pace.
Ward comes off a game where he practically eliminated AJ Green from the Bengals’ offense.
Will Ward Shadow McLaurin?
Washington’s quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, is another former Buckeye who will do his best to help McLaurin.
Browns’ defensive coordinator, Joe Woods, can’t be blamed for letting Ward shadow McLaurin all game.
After all, McLaurin is practically the entire Washington offense.
His 46.4 percent share of the Football Team’s receiving yards is the highest in the league.
Browns cornerback Denzel Ward forced 8 tight window passes on 11 targets as the nearest defender, the most tight windows forced in a game since 2017.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 18, 2020
McLaurin has more catches and yardage than the next two receivers on his team combined.
And Washington’s running game does nothing to distract defenses from the pass.
Defending against the Washington attack seems simple enough: Stop McLaurin and revel in victory.
But Joe Woods has not moved his corners at all in the first two weeks.
Ward received the lion’s share of credit for stopping AJ Green, but he did not shadow the Bengals star.
And the Browns send Ward to the left of their defense, away from McLaurin’s favorite location on Haskins’ left.
Who Invited the Duck To This Battle?
McLaurin might escape facing a Pro Bowl corner.
But he will still find the going tough against former Oregon State corner Terrance Mitchell.
Mitchell held AJ Green catchless on 5 targets last week.
#Browns outside corners Terrance Mitchell and Denzel Ward were 🔒🙅♂️ in coverage vs. CIN. They both finished top-15 in yds allowed per cover snap and each forced three pass-breakups, T-1st among WK2 CBs. pic.twitter.com/EAS7XeKDT5
— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) September 22, 2020
Overall, the Browns’ right corner limited receivers to 5 catches on 17 targets this year.
Opposing quarterbacks haven’t picked on Mitchell like you might expect with Ward on the other side.
For the season, only one in 5.75 pass attempts challenges Mitchell’s coverage.
Greedy Williams returned to practice this week and could return to the active roster.
Williams earned a high draft selection on his reputation as an above-average one-on-one cover corner, too.
But it is unclear if he will spell Mitchell as the starter in his first game back.
McLaurin truthers believe their hero is cornerback-proof.
Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell, and the rest of the Browns plan to prove them wrong.