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Matchup to Watch

Matchup to Watch: Denzel Ward vs. Terry McLaurin

After the Browns emerged victorious in the Battle of Ohio last Thursday night, all of the focus shifts to the Battle of the Buckeyes on Sunday as wide receiver Terry McLaurin leads the Washington Football Team to Cleveland for a showdown with Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention that Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins is also a former Ohio State Buckeye.

McLaurin had an impressive rookie season in which he caught 58 passes for 919 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 15.8 yards per catch. Thus far in 2020, he is on pace for an even better season as the primary offensive weapon for the Washington Football Team. Through two games, McLaurin leads the team with 17 targets, 12 catches, 186 receiving yards and a touchdown. He has more catches than the next two wide receivers in Washington combined (10) and has more receiving yards than the next two pass catchers combined (166). In fact, McLaurin has accounted for 46.4 percent of the Redskins' passing yards so far this season, the highest rate of any player in the NFL.

McLaurin is coming off of one of the best games of his career, as he caught a career-best seven of his 10 Week 2 targets for 125 yards (second most of his career) and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately for McLaurin, there may be no bigger "cooler" in the NFL at cornerback than Ward.

Through two games this year, Ward has allowed an average of three catches for 36 yards per game. When locking up with a true No. 1 like A.J. Green, Ward always seems to elevate his game. He held Green to 14 yards and two catches on five targets on Thursday Night Football and forced four incompletions against all receivers with his tight coverage.

Now, it must be noted that Ward has played exclusively at left cornerback through two games this year, so if the Football Team moves McLaurin to the other side, he likely will have to deal with Terrance “Money” Mitchell. Through two games, Mitchell has been targeted 14 times but has surrendered only five catches for 33 yards total. Like Ward, Mitchell locked down Green in Week 2 by not allowing a single catch on five targets. It is also possible that Greedy Williams (shoulder) returns to the lineup this week and would be in the spot Mitch has been occupying so effectively in his absence.

So far, McLaurin has been split out wide left (against the right cornerback) significantly more often than he has been split out wide right, which would be against Ward. It will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Joe Woods decides to have Ward follow McLaurin all over the field given he has been a one-man receiving corps for the Football Team.

Limiting McLaurin will be priority No. 1 for the Browns defense Sunday, and the battle of the Buckeyes will go a long way toward determining who wins the game.

Check out exclusive photos from Monday's practice in Berea

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