This week, the Cleveland Browns take on the New York Jets in Week 3 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
- Sam Darnold is playing his third game as a pro, and so far it has been mixed results for him. After a pick six to begin Week 1, he was 16-of-20 the rest of the game for 198 yards and 2 touchdown passes en route to a blowout victory. Last week against the Dolphins, he attempted a lot of passes (leading to 334 yards), but threw 2 interceptions. Downfield passing is not his specialty, and neither is taking off to run.
- Tyrod Taylor’s touchdown passes have come in the fourth quarter in each of the first two games, but so have his interceptions. For all the talk about the kicking game, better throws or decisions in those cases could have also led to different outcomes in the game. It’s a tough internal debate to have with Taylor — because I feel he does need to be a little more aggressive, and not worry about the occasional turnover. Things happen. I’m more upset about the fact that he doesn’t have good ball placement on many of his short throws, hindering catch-and-run opportunities for receivers. Taylor was 1-1 against the Jets in 2017.
- After ripping off a 62-yard touchdown to open the season against Detroit, Isaiah Crowell was limited to 12 carries for 35 yards last week against Miami. Crowell and Bilal Powell will split carries for the Jets, and Powell is also the more utilized receiving threat (although Browns fans know quite well that Crowell was a capable receiver).
- After two games of seeing the Browns’ running game, something needs to change with the way it is being utilized. That doesn’t necessarily mean the primary ballcarrier; I have a feeling that one big reason that Nick Chubb isn’t getting more action is that they don’t trust him to pass protect. But Duke Johnson having just 3 catches in 2 games is unfathomable. He led the team with 74 catches a year ago and was re-signed for that very reason.
Wide Receiver / Tight End
- The Jets’ top three receivers are Quincy Enunwa, Terrelle Pryor, and Robby Anderson. Anderson excels at the deep ball, while Enunwa is one of the game’s more underrated receivers. We all know the story with Pryor — he was fantastic in Cleveland for a year, but struggled mightily with drops and miscues in Washington last year. This year with the Jets, he’s had a bit of a redemption with 7 catches for 133 yards in 2 games. However, Jets fans have already seen some of his flaws in action. Eric Tomlinson is the Jets tight end, but is primarily featured as a blocker.
- Cleveland got good news Thursday morning that Jarvis Landry will play after having a knee injury. The player the team needs to be a breakout star, though, is Antonio Callaway. The speed he has, either for deep balls or in space, is something no one else on the club has. I think Hue Jackson seeing that speed on the touchdown last week was a wake up call that this guy needs to be featured a lot more. Rashard Higgins will stay as the third receiving option. David Njoku continues to underperform at tight end.
- The Jets’ starting offensive line includes LT Kelvin Beachum, LG James Carpenter, C Spencer Long, RG Brian Winters, and RT Brandon Shell. Pro Football Focus gives credit to Winters for an impressive start to the year, and Shell has played well too. From center to left tackle has been mediocre at best. In particular, the match-up against Beachum (62.2 grade) will be much more manageable than what Myles Garrett faced a week ago in Terron Armstead (86.3 grade).
- The Browns’ offensive line had an improved outing against the Saints last week, especially when it came to not having any penalties. The run blocking still needs to vastly improve, though. Cleveland is far superior at the guard positions, and the Jets do not have a significant edge at the tackles.
- The Jets run a 3-4 defense. Their starting defensive line includes DE Leonard Williams, NT Steve McLendon, and DE Nathan Shepherd. Williams is a force to be reckoned with, but the rest of the line isn’t as sharp. Shepherd, a third-round pick, is only going to play about a third of the game, rotating in with other options. McLendon will play about half of the game and is one of the league’s better interior run defenders.
#Jets DL Leonard Williams was nearly unblockable in week 2, having his way with the Dolphins interior OL: pic.twitter.com/6PZnJk3rWV— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) September 19, 2018
- Myles Garrett was quiet in Week 2, but now he faces a Jets team that he debuted against a year ago and had two sacks against. He does not face the same standout left tackle in Week 3 and goes up against a rookie quarterback, a combination that favors Cleveland. Larry Ogunjobi also looks like a Pro Bowl caliber player and gets another team with a weak interior. Emmanuel Ogbah is out for the second game in a row; Chris Smith will fill in for him again.
- The Jets’ linebackers include OLB Josh Martin, ILB Darron Lee, ILB Avery Williamson, and OLB Jordan Jenkins. Martin is out with a concussion, so Frankie Luvu and Brandon Copeland will see action in his place. Lee didn’t have the best start to his career, and was the worst-graded linebacker in the NFL by PFF last year. Through two games this year, PFF has him graded as the top linebacker in the NFL. Go figure.
- The Browns will likely be without OLB Christian Kirksey again this week. The Browns’ linebacker play has been a bit pedestrian between Joe Schobert and Jamie Collins; it would be nice to see more impact plays by either player.
- The Jets’ two starting cornerbacks are Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne, with Buster Skrine covering the slot. Johnson was a prized free agent cornerback this offseason, with the Jets signing him. He had a rough first week, but was back in top form last week and should be matched up against Jarvis Landry. New York’s starting safeties are Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Maye is expected to miss the game to injury, so backup Doug Middleton will start in his place again.
- The past two weeks, Denzel Ward has had two touchdown passes thrown on him, both of which he had tight coverage, but with his back turned, allowing the receiver to use his strength to haul it in. Terrance Mitchell’s feistiness is exactly what I look for in a No. 2 cornerback. It’ll be interesting to see if T.J. Carrie continues to hold on to the nickelback role after replacing Briean Boddy-Calhoun last week. Free safety Damarious Randall has been great in the secondary, but is dealing with a heel injury this week. He will play, but will it be the whole game?
- Jason Myers is the Jets’ kicker. He is 4-of-4 this year, including a long of 55 yards. The past three years, he was the Jaguars’ kicker, and recorded field goals of 56 and 58 yards. he is very susceptible to misses, though. He has made 86.3% of extra points in his career, and is also an 82% field goal kicker. Cleveland’s kicking situation with Zane Gonzalez was a disaster last week, so now Greg Joseph gets an opportunity to seize the moment in his first NFL game.
- Lachlan Edwards is the Jets’ punter. In two games, he is averaging 46.9 yards per punt with a net average of 40.9, both marks around the middle of the NFL. Britton Colquitt, meanwhile, remains near the bottom of the NFL with his average (42.7) and net average (37.6).
- Andre Roberts returns kickoffs and punts for the Jets. He already has a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown this year. Jabrill Peppers appears to be locked in as the Browns’ return man, despite early-season hype for Antonio Callaway.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “Cleveland has played very well defensively to begin the year. Going up against a rookie quarterback does not guarantee success, but I feel this defense has a lot more opportunistic players now who can force those turnovers. Cleveland’s offense has been bad at sustaining multiple drives, including off of turnovers, but all they need to do is have a little bit of success. I think the running game gets going a little more to build a lead, and the defense hangs on as the offense slowly builds it throughout the game.” Browns 24, Jets 13.
Matt Wood: “Browns defense continues to force turnovers as they get to Darnold. My daughter gets to see her second Browns win in her lifetime. She can talk.” Browns 27, Jets 13.
Josh Finney: “HUEMAGEDDON.
This is it, fellas. Either the road to not being a bag of [redacted] starts today, or the hot seat gets blazing.
This is a game the Browns are supposed to win. Outside of WR, they have clear advantages at nearly every position.
Except coaching, and specials.
So....” Jets 27, Browns 23.
Mike Hoag: “I watched Sam Darnold cave repeatedly against pressure when his Trojans offensive line was overmatched. If the Browns DL can continue to create quick pressures, especially on the interior, Darnold can be forced into making some mistakes when feeling that heat up the middle. Plus, he has been turnover prone in those situations when he has no room to move up into the pocket.
For the Browns, this could be the week their offense finally starts to click. Tyrod Taylor is as mobile as quarterbacks come, and the Jets were the third-worst team in the league in rushing yards given up to quarterbacks last season—a trend that has carried over to 2018.
It’s hard to pick a 1-32-1 team to win anything, and I picked them to lose last week, but this is a must-win game for Cleveland. Another loss here would absolutely defy probability and rational thought. With a h(y)uge amount of skepticism and apprehension, I think they find a way to finally win a football game. Dilly, dilly.” Browns 17, Jets 13.
rufio: “The Browns force Darnold into 3 turnovers, and this is the week the Browns turn to the passing game with the Jets’ lack of an elite edge threat and suspect secondary. Callaway and Njoku go off.” Browns 31, Jets 20.
Tom Moore: “The Browns have played close games the first two weeks of the season. Is that a sign the team is ready to take a step forward, or was it sloppy play on the part of the opposition that masks the reality that these are still the “same old” Browns?
We will find out tonight as the Browns face a Jets team starting a rookie quarterback and a pair of Cleveland castoffs on offense in running back Isaiah Crowell and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. The Browns should be better than the Jets and, if improvement is really afoot, that will be evident tonight as this is a game the Browns “should” win.
Limit the turnovers on offense, put pressure on Sam Darnold on defense, and the Browns should send the home crowd home in a happy mood.” Browns 14, Jets 10.
Andrea Hangst: “Two weeks, two close games, two games defined by their defense: All of these are reasons why the Browns shouldn’t be winless heading into Thursday night and the New York Jets and why the Browns will leave Thursday night with a ‘W.’ Gregg Williams is likely licking his chops at the very idea of seeing a rookie Sam Darnold, and rightly so: That Browns defense is going to make Darnold and the Jets offense pay. And it won’t matter that the Browns’ offense is a low-scoring group this week because the Jets’ defense matches up well mainly because the Browns’ defense is quickly becoming a juggernaut. There’s no place like home, especially when it comes to the Browns finally picking up a win. Cleveland will get it done.” Browns 14, Jets 9.
Ezweav: “Over the first two weeks, the Browns’ defense looks to be fairly drastically improved. It’s now two straight weeks against a HOF quarterback that they’ve surrendered 21 pts, which is pretty good in the modern league (and those two teams have scored 37 & 40 pts respectively, in their other games).
Last week it appeared to me that the Saints gameplanned around Garrett so hard that it limited what they try to do offensively. That’s a pretty huge advantage for us, and it didn’t work tremendously well considering Larry Ogunjobi got home twice* due to being freed up. That’s a very good looking front and Greggg has the guys playing the same tune.
Tyrod Taylor in two weeks looks about exactly like what ought to have been expected (IMO) but the good in that is it gives him an advantage going up against a rookie QB who is going up against us. We win, finally.” Browns 17, Jets 10.
Dan Lalich: “Both of these offenses stink, both of these defenses are good. Predictably this will be a low scoring game. That favors the Browns, in my opinion, given how well Tyrod Taylor takes care of the football. In the end I think the giant forehead masquerading as Sam Darnold makes one too many mistakes.” Browns 11, Jets 5.
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.