CJ Beathard vs Dorian Thompson-Robinson/Joe Flacco
Sunday sees two franchises blighted by injury go up against each other. No more so than at quarterback, where both teams look set to be without their starting quarterbacks. This is certain for the Browns, where Deshaun Watson saw his season end after fracturing his shoulder against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11.
Cleveland toyed with PJ Walker, but ultimately turned to rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson to take the reins. ‘DTR’ suffered a baptism of fire in Baltimore, throwing three picks as he got his first taste of NFL action. Since then he’s been much more steady, although it’s obvious the team is leaning heavily on the ground game. DTR has just 200 yards passing in his last two games, with one touchdown and one interception - before a concussion saw Joe Flacco make his Browns bow against the Los Angeles Rams...
At 38 and with a Super Bowl on his resume, not much will faze Flacco. He performed admirably against the Rams - but is still not the QB that Browns fans were expecting to see this season. If he gets the start on Sunday. Whichever quarterback gets the nod on Sunday will be ready for a tough afternoon.
That being said, Jacksonville has their own concerns at QB. Despite some relief amongst the team that Lawrence’s high ankle sprain doesn’t seem as serious as first anticipated, it would be a miracle if he was cleared to play on Sunday. That means CJ Beathard will get the nod - despite his own issue with a sore non-throwing shoulder. Beathard is considered a safe pair of hands, and proved he could move the offense downfield on one late drive against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. Up against a feisty Browns defense, he’ll need to do the same if the Jaguars want to return home with a win.
Parker Washington vs Grant Delpit
Shoutout to Parker Washington:— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) December 6, 2023
1 unforgettable TD catch pic.twitter.com/urTbg8GuH6
Beathard will not be operating with a full complement of weapons on Sunday. Christian Kirk, who suffered a core muscle injury catching the ball against the Bengals, is likely to be sidelined up to eight weeks. Doug Pederson confirmed that rookie Parker Washington will be the next man up - and he proved as much on Monday night, catching six balls for 61 yards and his first NFL touchdown. Washington is slightly less elusive than Kirk but maybe more physical operating the middle of the field - giving a different dynamic to this offense.
He’ll be challenged by a strong secondary on Sunday - none more so than by strong safety Grant Delpit, who has balled out this year in Jim Schwartz’ versatile scheme. Delpit is your quintessential enforcer, who loves nothing better than to come down into the box and be physical against both the run and pass. A violent hitter who takes good angles to the catch point, Delpit has six interceptions in his Browns career thus far. Schwartz has given his playmaker more freedom this season than under previous coordinators, and he’ll be looking to challenge a receiver who is still getting his feet wet at this level.
Josh Allen vs Myles Garrett
We could be in for a pass rushing treat this weekend, as two of the league’s elite pocket penetrators find themselves up against each other. Khalil Mack (Los Angeles Chargers) may lead the sack rankings with 15 takedowns currently, but Josh Allen (13.5) and Myles Garrett (13) are not far behind - and with injuries on both teams’ offensive lines, there is certainly an opportunity to pad those statlines on Sunday.
Josh Allen is having the best year in his career so far. As well as comfortably recording his best sack figures since he entered the league in 2019, he’s also racked up 24 QB hits, 45 tackles, 11 TFL’s, forced two fumbles and had one interception - and he’s on course to set career bests in every one of these categories too. He’ll likely find himself up against rookie Dawand Jones, who has had an impressive start to life in the league - but has rarely had to deal with an opponent as explosive or versatile as Allen.
The Browns have a playmaker of their own. Myles Garrett entered 2023 as the favorite to take home the Defensive Player of the Year award - and he’s lived up to the billing. He’s similar or behind Allen this season in all the categories outlined above except for forced fumbles (4), but there’s no questioning who has had the better career to date. Garrett is benefitting from playing opposite Za’Darius Smith this year, making it harder for teams to slide protection his direction. That does not bode well for the Jaguars, who are already without Cam Robinson, and are sweating on the health of Walker Little, his replacement at left tackle. Garrett and Allen are ready to eat on Sunday - but which one will walk away the more satisfied?
Let us know which matchups you’re looking forward to watching this weekend!