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Browns vs. Jets: NFL Week 5 Preview and Prediction

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Can Cleveland finally pick up their first win of the season?

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This week, the Cleveland Browns take on the New York Jets in Week 5 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.


Position-by-Position Evaluation


Quarterback

  • Over a two-year span with the Browns, Josh McCown was 1-10 as a starting quarterback. The record was seldom indicative of his play, as he played like a warrior and exceeded expectations for his age in always try to will the team to victory. We’re talking about a guy who played nearly three quarters last season with a broken collarbone, and even threw a touchdown pass after having sustained the injury.
  • In 4 games with the Jets, McCown already has a 2-2 record. He’s been efficient in the short passing game and has completed 70.1% of his passes on the season. Besides his toughness, one of the things I always liked about McCown was his ball placement. For example, we’ve seen a lot of passes this year that DeShone Kizer has thrown that make you say, “well, it was a little behind, but I think the receiver still should have caught it.” With McCown, the passes are often right on target.
  • McCown’s awareness is still a weak point for him. He’s taken 11 sacks over the past 3 games and has fumbled 6 times, losing 2 of them.
  • Last week, the Browns decided to utilize the short passing game with Kizer as opposed to him trying to go downfield more than any other quarterback the previous three games. The results weren’t the best, and it’s a bit frustrating to see some things being shoe-horned into his brain. I feel like part of the reason Kizer hesitates is because he’s thinking too much rather than playing freely.

Running Back

  • In Weeks 2 and 3, the Jets went with a three-man rotation at running back between Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, and sixth-round pick Elijah McGuire. Forte is one of the league's oldest running backs, but was still logging all-purpose yardage until missing last week’s game with a knee/toe injury.
  • After mediocre rushing results to begin the season, both Powell and McGuire broke big runs last week to inflate each of their averages. Powell had a 75-yard touchdown, while McGuire had a 69-yard touchdown. While it’d be a concern to think the Jets have found a threat, I’m more likely to chalk Week 4 up to being a “one-week wonder.” Over the first three weeks, the Jets’ longest run only went for 11 yards, and the running back room averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.
  • The Browns are due for a breakout day rushing the football, and this could be the week. Isaiah Crowell has been frustrated with his lack of touches through four games. And although fans are frustrated at Hue Jackson when looking at the raw stats and wondering why more running plays aren’t being called, part of the reason (especially the past two weeks) has been yielding 28 points and then 21 points to the Colts and Bengals, respectively, in the first half of games. When you look at the first quarter and a half, the Browns’ backs are getting a decent amount of carries. So for Crowell to get going, the team in general just needs to be in a more competitive spot to start the second half.
  • Duke Johnson is on pace to be an 80-catch, 800+ yard running back. Later on, I’ll talk about some perplexity I still have with Hue Jackson’s use of him.

Wide Receiver / Tight End

  • The Jets will utilize three receivers: Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, and Jeremy Kerley. Kearse is considered the team's No. 1 receiver and should play nearly every snap. He has 18 catches for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season.
  • Anderson, a second-year undrafted receiver with some height at 6-3, is known as the Jets’ deep ball threat. He has 12 catches (out of 24 targets) for 204 yards, including catches of 69 and 41 yards the past two weeks. Kerley is the Jets’ slot receiver. Although he doesn't have a ton of yards (93), he's caught all 13 passes he's been targeted on.
  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins quickly reclaimed the top spot on the Jets' depth chart at tight end after serving a two-game suspension to begin the season. In two games, he has 9 catches for 77 yards.
  • Browns fans can celebrate in the fact that Kenny Britt is doubtful for Sunday’s game with a hamstring/knee injury. As far as what the Browns’ depth chart will look like at receiver, I think it’s impossible to predict and will be dependent on who Hue Jackson deems had the best week of practice. It’ll be some combination of Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Sammie Coates, Kasen Williams, and Bryce Treggs. I’m most intrigued about seeing Williams and Treggs. If Coates is OK after his injury, he could be a deep threat against a Jets secondary missing some of their depth.
  • I’ll petition for more looks for Seth DeValve and David Njoku again, but I think it’s falling on deaf ears based on their gameday utilization. It’s time to take the kid gloves off of Njoku and see what he can do as an intermediate route runner or in some one-on-one flag route situations.
  • The Jets don’t have a big advantage at receiver/tight end, but their personnel at least has some clearly defined roles.

Offensive Line

  • The Jets’ starting offensive line includes LT Kelvin Beachum, LG James Carpenter, C Wesley Johnson, RG Brian Winters, and RT Brandon Shell. The weak links on the line are Beachum at left tackle and Johnson at center, which is great news for two returning Browns defenders, Myles Garrett and Danny Shelton.
  • Beachum was the Steelers’ starting left tackle and a pretty good one, but tore his ACL in 2015 (a contract year). Jacksonville gave him a shot in 2016, but he was considered a big disappointment, and things haven’t been much better during his short tenure with the Jets so far. Our Jets affiliate says Beachum “has been beat in pass protection at a rather alarming rate.”
  • Shell, a fifth-round pick in 2016, is the starting right tackle this year but missed last week’s game to injury. Overall, he’s held up pretty well in pass protection. Carpenter, the team’s left guard, has been their best player in both pass block efficiency and run blocking.
  • This has been a frustrating first quarter of the season for the Browns’ highly-paid offensive line. They haven’t been bad, but if you paid attention to me three film review sessions last week, you’ll see how often that Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler are having issues, and J.C. Tretter has played below expectations too. In my opinion, the tackles (Joe Thomas and Shon Coleman) have been the best linemen on the line by far.

Defensive Line

  • The Jets run a 3-4 defense, including DE Leonard Williams, NT Steve McLendon, and DE Muhammed Wilkerson. Williams is the strength of the defensive front. The sixth overall pick of the 2015 draft, he made the Pro Bowl in 2016 after logging 7 sacks. Wilkerson has also shown in his career than he can be a 10-sack type of player, although he was considered a big disappointment in 2016. Through four games, neither of them have registered a sack, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t putting in the work.
  • The Jets are without backup DE Kony Ealy this week. Although Williams and Wilkerson each usually play around 80% of the snaps, they could be worn down if Cleveland presents a run-heavy attack.
  • It’s been frustrating for Cleveland to face two porous offensive lines in Indianapolis and Cincinnati and not be able to take advantage of them. They continue against the Jets and Texans the next two games, but the big difference now could be the presence of Myles Garrett. We saw how much Garrett’s presence played a role in camp and the preseason, and he gets a favorable match-up against Kelvin Beachum.
  • Danny Shelton is expected to return too from a calf injury, bolstering an already jam-packed defensive tackle position.
  • At defensive end, Garrett’s presence means that we should see less of Carl Nassib, which could play to his advantage if Cleveland uses him on a more limited basis and his hustle/length (perhaps on some stunts) can cause some disruption in a semi-new role. Emmanuel Ogbah is also coming off of one of his best games in the NFL.

Linebacker

  • The Jets' starting linebackers are OLB David Bass, ILB Darron Lee, ILB Demario Davis, and OLB Jordan Jenkins. Bass had bounced around the NFL and was just signed by the Jets two weeks ago, but he’s having to fill in for the injured Josh Martin.
  • Davis, the former Browns linebacker, is back with the Jets and ended up sticking after Cleveland traded him for Calvin Pryor. Davis leads the Jets with 27 tackles. His production is just as you remembered it from Cleveland: mediocre. Our Jets affiliate attributed he and Lee’s horrid play the first two weeks as the reason why the team’s run defense was so bad. Davis did have one terrific game in 2017, coming in Week 3 against a now-hapless Dolphins team:
  • The Browns’ coverage from their linebackers continues to be inefficient. They’re allowing literally everything to be completed. Jamie Collins might miss his third straight game due to a concussion. He was finally taken out of the protocol on Friday, but with no actual practice the past three games, it might be tough to just “throw him in there.” Personally, I’d find a package he can be used in and still play him.

Secondary

  • The Jets’ starting cornerbacks include CB Buster Skrine and CB Morris Claiborne. CB Darryl Roberts or CB Juston Burris would normally be the Jets' third cornerback. Roberts is out with a hamstring injury and Burris suffered a foot injury during the week, making him questionable. CB Marcus Williams could be pressed into action.
  • Skrine continues to be panned by Jets fans with this familiar description of his play:

As a cover guy? Ouch. Going back to his first year in New York, Skrine has been eaten up routinely. He just doesn't flash much competent coverage ability. He doesn't get his head turned to the ball and is a penalty machine.

  • Where the Jets are having great success is at the safety position. They selected Jamal Adams with the 6th overall pick and Marcus Maye with the 39th overall pick. Both have started from Day 1 and can play either safety position. Adams, though, has covered up a lot of the weaknesses on the Jets' defense, playing some cornerback, safety, and linebacker, all at a high level. Basically, he’s doing what we thought the Browns would do with Jabrill Peppers.
  • When you look at Cleveland’s safety position, it really is deja vu from a year ago. The first half of the year, I called our safeties historically bad. It isn’t appropriate to say that about Peppers, but I’ll say that his limited experience in the deep safety role, coupled with the team’s lack of a pass rush, is putting him in a lot of situations he’s uncomfortable with.
  • The Jets like to include Jeremy Kerley in the slot, and he’s caught all 13 of his passes this year. That should make for a good challenge for Briean Boddy-Calhoun to try to be aggressive and tip some passes.
  • The secondaries are close to even, but the Jets get the slight edge because of how uncomfortable Peppers has been coming up to make tackles.

Special Teams

  • Chandler Catanzaro is the Jets' kicker. He's 9-of-11 this season and has a miss in each of the last two weeks, but he can get some good distance on his kicks. Zane Gonzalez missed a 48-yard field goal last week despite no adverse conditions in the stadium.
  • Lac Edwards is the Jets' punter. Last year, Edwards was near the bottom of the NFL, but he’s moved to the middle of the pack through four games in 2017 with a 46.1 punt average and a 42.0 net average. He’s been able to get 10 punts downed inside the 20, which is among the league leaders. Britton Colquitt gets better distance on his kicks, but suffered last week on his net average with a couple of good returns.
  • WR ArDarius Stewart handles kickoffs for the Jets, while WR Jeremy Kerley takes on punt returns.

Predictions

Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.


Chris Pokorny: “I don’t know what type of sickness I have where I keep picking the Browns to win, although I will say that my prediction last week was predicated on Myles Garrett suiting up. He’ll be in there this week, and while the Jets deserve credit for getting to 2-2, that doesn’t change the fact that they are still one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Cleveland has needed an emotional jolt, and Garrett will provide the missing pass rush. Even if it doesn’t lead to sacks, it could lead to throwaways or dumpoffs, which our defenders have to be ready for. Robby Anderson is a deep threat who Josh McCown will actually try to target, so this is one week where Jabrill Peppers might be involved in a few plays in coverage.

On offense, Kenny Britt taking a seat (to injury) will be a refresher, and I believe a more competitive outing by the Browns’ defense will keep the score closer so Cleveland can stay with the running game in the second half. Last week, the Browns were close to breaking some big runs, if not for some good plays by Cincinnati’s linebackers. The Jets don’t have the personnel at linebacker to make those type of plays, and that should help DeShone Kizer work in some rare playaction passes with receivers open.” Browns 24, Jets 14.


Andrea Hangst: “For the previous two weeks, the Browns have faced beatable opponents and haven't gotten the job done. Their slow starts have done little more than hamper their late-game efforts. While the debut of Myles Garrett, albeit on a pitch count, does add some cache to the defense this week, the New York Jets are a surprising 2-2 on the season, while the Browns have managed only 63 points through four games and whispers of coaching and front office discord are already on the rise. This should be Cleveland's game to win, but so were the last two. It's hard to see this collection of players come together as a team, when the on-field product seems nothing more than a collection of plays and not a real strategy. When it comes to winning, the Browns should but the Jets do.” Jets 17, Browns 10.


Matt Wood: “Kizer has his ups and downs. Garrett has a splash play early but wears down and McCown throws for 300+ in a win that has Grossi wondering why we ever cut him. It's followed by a week of "Hogan gives us a better chance to win talk" which makes me die a little inside. Plus side I find a new way to use the F-word with Kenny Britt's name. If the Browns lose by more than 10, Haslam fires Hue.” Jets 27, Browns 16.


Josh Finney: “I predict....the Browns will ALMOST ruin the good mood the Indians are determined to put me in.” Jets 23, Browns 17.


Mike Hoag: “I refuse to accept that the Browns will lose to the Jets this week. Despite injuries and having a rookie quarterback, it’s hard to lose five games in a row, let alone 20-of-21. Hue Jackson finds a way to get his team in the win column against very beatable Jets team.” Browns 18, Jets 16.


Ezweav: “This week is going to be better. We've been pretty good at shutting down the run, and if we make Drago beat us I think we can win that battle. Kizer will take a little step forward but really all that will happen to improve the offense is fewer dropped passes and penalties. The result is a win that should be comfortable, but we'll almost blow it at the end.” Browns 21, Jets 19.


Robo Dawg: “Cleveland stifles NY's run game, and Josh McCown becomes Garrett's first prey. Cleveland’s receivers still haven't learned how to catch and Browns lose after a ricocheted dropped pass is returned for a TD.” Jets 10, Browns 9.


Dan Lalich: “Neither offense is humming along, and neither gets it going this week. The Browns will cycle in some more receivers who don't know the playbook and couldn't stick on other squads, and the Jets are still running out the shell of Josh McCown behind center. Neither defense is outstanding either, but it will be hard to not look good against these offenses. The only TD of the game comes on a pick-six for, let's say, Briean Boddy-Calhoun.” Browns 11, Jets 5.


Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.

Poll

Who do you think will win, Browns or Jets? Pick the one closest to your prediction.

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Browns by 7+
    (142 votes)
  • 27%
    Browns by 3
    (178 votes)
  • 20%
    Jets by 3
    (136 votes)
  • 29%
    Jets by 7+
    (192 votes)
648 votes total Vote Now