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Seahawks-Browns: 4 key matchups to watch in Week 6

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Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

After a long layoff, the Seahawks will return to action on Sunday against a Browns team that was embarrassed on Monday Night Football. Though Cleveland’s been a disappointment up to this point, that their Week 5 walloping came on the heels of a seemingly statement victory over the Ravens made it that much more confounding. The Browns, back in the House of Hardesty after a west coast jaunt, will now try to return to .500 against a refreshed Seattle team that’s flying high. There will be a number of matchups to watch, one with long-term implications, and a few that will likely influence the outcome of Sunday against the Fightin’ Freddie Kitchens.

Jamarco Jones vs Larry Ogunjobi

Perhaps the biggest talking point following the Seahawks’ victory over the Rams in Week 5, besides, ya know, Russell Wilson going full scorched earth in 2019, was the performance of Jamarco Jones. The former Ohio State tackle was forced into the lineup in the first quarter against the Rams, and in his first ever action at guard, played incredibly well. Jones finished the game with Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest grade on Seattle’s side, and per ESPN, had a pass block win rate of 95 percent. And somehow, all of that just makes sense.

As a prospect, Jones was well regarded—being the Buckeyes’ left tackle will do that for you—but there were serious concerns after a shocking showing at the Scouting Combine. However, the way he negated his lack of athleticism, plus his tantalizing size and length, made him a promising prospect nonetheless. As he showed against L.A., his ability to anchor, and the vice grip that arrives when he engages first, are entirely conducive to succeeding at guard. Which is what happened in Week 5, when Jones would repeatedly have complete control of the defender across from him, and steer them well clear of the play.

Making your debut at guard against, among others, Aaron Donald, is a helluva test. If Jones makes his first start at right guard on Sunday, as currently looks likely, he’ll face another great test in the form of Larry Ogunjobi. A penetrative defensive tackle, vastly underrated simply due to the sheer number of great interior rushers in the league right now, Ogunjobi is exactly the type of rusher one would expect Jones to struggle with; he’s explosive off the ball and quick in his movements.

Myles Garrett’s continued ascension has overshadowed Ogunjobi’s continued development, but the third-year player is off to the best start of his career: He’s on pace for nearly 10 sacks, and is getting pressure on 7.1 percent of his rushes, both of which would be career highs. Jones’ best hope for stopping Ogunjobi, and limiting his backfield disruption, is to do just what he did last week: Land his strike first, with a three inch reach advantage over Ogunjobi, and receive help from Justin Britt. If Jones can win this matchup, the Seahawks should feel great about their future at right guard.

Poona Ford vs Nick Chubb

The best moment in a dreadful evening for Cleveland on Monday night came on a quick handoff to Chubb, who took a trap play 37-yards into the 49ers’ secondary.

Though it was a creative design, and very well executed, the result was hardly unique: Chubb has been one of the NFL’s best rushers in 2019, and has predominantly seen his carries come between the tackles. With a tremendous physique and great burst through the hole, Chubb is an incredibly dangerous proposition running inside; he is quick to get to the second level, and has the size and balance to stave off any arm tackles along the way. The key to stopping Chubb, who has been the Browns’ best offensive player in 2019, is to contain him at the line of scrimmage.

Thankfully for Seattle, they have a budding star inside who regularly cleans up at the line of scrimmage. Ford has been outstanding against the run in 2019, both moving laterally and at the point of attack.

His ability to get off blocks in a timely manner, and make the stop, will be crucial against Chubb.

Cleveland will be scheming to get Chubb untouched through the hole—for as vanilla as Kitchens has been this season compared to last, he has still dialed up some outstanding run plays. It’ll be on Ford and Al Woods to halt his progress there, and not allow him to get into the second level.

Shaquill Griffin vs Odell Beckham Jr

After a disappointing sophomore season, there was good reason to believe Shaquill Griffin would bounce back in 2019, and through five games, that has proved to be true. On the left side of the Seahawks’ defense, Griffin is allowing just 5.6 yards per target (down from 8.7 a year ago) and a 56.5 completion percentage (down from 62.9). Perhaps even more importantly, Griffin has gotten back to attacking the football the way he did as a rookie—when he averaged a pass breakup per game—and already has as many PBUs (six) as he did all of last season. Griffin has passed every test so far in a huge season for him, but will now face his biggest test yet, in the form of Odell Beckham Jr.

A terrific 6-161-1 performance against the Jets on Monday Night Football aside, Beckham has been largely a non-factor for a Browns offense yet to get off the ground. He was held completely in check by Richard Sherman in Week 5, but wasn’t helped by a highly uncharacteristic pair of drops. With a combined stat line of 10-103-0 over the last three weeks, Beckham is due for the type of game we’ve come to expect, but Griffin is well positioned to keep him from it. Griffin’s increased athleticism in 2019, having returned to his college weight and explosiveness, will allow the cornerback to stick with Beckham in the shallow and intermediate levels of the field.

Beckham does align on the offense’s left, as well as in the slot, from time to time. For the most part, however, he’s likely to find himself on the right side, across from an ascending corner in Griffin. Thus far, 2019 has seen Griffin get back on the development track he was on in 2017—if he’s able to win this matchup on Sunday, Seattle can be comfortable in the knowledge they again have a cornerback capable of containing anyone.

Seahawks’ pass rush vs Cleveland’s offensive line

The Browns’ offensive line being their Achilles heel was no secret entering the 2019 season. A roster loaded with talent at quarterback, all three skill positions, and all three levels of the defense, was legitimately in threat of being sabotaged by a poor offensive line. So far this season, that’s proved true—worse, though, is that it has led to Baker Mayfield becoming a skittish and inaccurate quarterback. A Super Bowl favorite ahead of 2019, Cleveland’s not only in danger of failing to meet their expectations of a playoff birth, they’re in danger of ruining the single player who represented hope for the franchise.

There was no better example of the Browns’ offensive line, and Mayfield’s regression, than Week 5 against the 49ers. Mayfield was under duress all game, surprisingly unresponsive to the madness around him, and completed just one pass when pressured—which he was on over half of his dropbacks.

Cleveland’s offensive line will present Seattle with a great chance to start piling up numbers, particularly with the way they’re forcing Mayfield to double-clutch and hold onto the ball. Individually, the Seahawks’ defensive linemen have rushed the passer well in 2019, it just hasn’t translated to strong performances as a unit. They rank 25th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate as a defensive line, with just 10 sacks through five games. However, there’s great reason to believe a breakthrough is coming, beyond the dreadful offensive line they’re about to face. Jadeveon Clowney has been the best defensive player on the field for two straight weeks, and is sixth in the NFL with 20 pressures; Quinton Jefferson is just behind him, with 18 pressures; Rasheem Green appears to have made a huge leap from 2018; and while he’s coming along slowly, Ezekiel Ansah’s workload has increased every week.

If the defensive line is going to reach the heights they’re capable of in 2019, it will start on Sunday.

The Browns proved against the Ravens in Week 4 that, at their best, they can dictate the game against any team. Though not entirely similar, the Ravens’ strengths are in the same vein as the Seahawks’. On the road, at 10 AM PST, Seattle could be in for a tricky matchup. If they’re able to contain the Browns’ two biggest weapons, and continue to rattle Mayfield, they’ll have a strong chance at leaving Cleveland victorious.