Ramses Barden: New York Giants WR Will Shine vs. Cleveland Browns in Week 5
It might be a combination of his foot, ankle and knee. Whatever the case may be, the return of New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks doesn't seem likely for at least another week, giving Ramses Barden another opportunity to shine in Week 5.
Facing a Cleveland Browns team enduring its final contest without top cornerback Joe Haden, Barden will bounce back from a rather poor showing against much stiffer competition in the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. The likes of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie prevented Barden from building on his breakout performance against the Carolina Panthers. He notched just two catches for 36 yards on four targets.
Domenik Hixon is oft-injured, but started against Philadelphia, and had a wonderful game.
Will Ramses Barden recover vs. the Browns?
Cleveland's game plan will key on shutting down Hixon and double-teaming No. 1 wideout Victor Cruz, leaving Barden with the opportunity to get one-on-one matchups vertically.
At 6'6", Barden will have a significant height advantage on whoever is matched up against him, be it Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine or Sheldon Brown. None of Cleveland's corners are above 5'10".
All three have proven to be liabilities in man-to-man coverage for different reasons. Patterson is not a top-flight corner, but has had to guard the opposing team's best receiver in Haden's absence. It's clear that Skrine is talented, but is still raw and inexperienced in his second season. In the case of Brown, he is simply not the player he once was, which may result in increased playing time for rookie Trevin Wade.
Instability at free safety for the Browns will also allow Giants QB Eli Manning to take more shots down the field.
How bad is it for Cleveland at that position? Consider this: 2011 seventh-round pick Eric Hagg started the first two games, but was then declared inactive in the next two due to poor play. In his place was a combination of veteran Usama Young and undrafted rookie Tashaun Gipson.
Young and Gipson haven't been awful, to be fair, but the secondary is still allowing 286 yards per game through the air. Manning is the best quarterback they have faced all season, and it's on the road to boot.
Barden's size will also be beneficial in the red zone, and Manning will likely look for him against the overmatched Browns corners.
Seriously, with a seven-inch height advantage and a decent throw on a fade pattern, how is Barden not going to come down with the ball in the end zone at least once?
Players spring up out of nowhere all the time in the NFL, and while Barden is no exception, neither is second-year Browns linebacker Craig Robertson.
The former undrafted free agent has emerged as a sure tackler, and has also flashed exceptional ability in pass coverage. Alongside stud middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, there shouldn't be much room after the catch for the Giants' receivers, which is especially where Cruz makes his living.
Tight end Martellus Bennett should also be neutralized thanks to the coverage ability of Robertson and Jackson, which will cause Manning to look away from his emerging big target more frequently than usual.
Perhaps most important is the protection Manning gets. Against a ferocious Eagles front four, Manning was not sacked once. As well as Cleveland's defensive front has played, they are not on the same level as Philly's.
Buying Manning time in the pocket will open up those downfield opportunities, and with the Browns keying in on every other weapon in the Giants' passing attack, Barden will be able to bounce back from a costly penalty in the Giants' recent defeat and post monster numbers at home.
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