This Monday, the Cleveland Browns take on the New York Jets in Week 2 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
- We were preparing for round two of Sam Darnold vs. Baker Mayfield in prime time, but the Jets dropped the surprising news mid-week that Darnold is out due to having mono. Taking Darnold’s place is backup Trevor Siemian, who was the only other quarterback on the Jets’ roster. Siemian started 24 games with the Denver Broncos from 2016-2017, but didn’t have great success, especially in his second year as the starter. He will complete about 59% of his passes and average a touchdown and an interception per game.
- Siemian’s record as a starter is 13-11, but ESPN also notes that Siemian “has the worst Total QBR (42.1) among the 30 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 action plays since 2016.” In other words, he is exactly what a backup quarterback would be defined as — he can step in and try to manage the game, but he’s not going to go out and win them on his own. Take the win/loss statistic with a grain of salt, because we know that Drew Stanton’s record as a starter is 11-6.
- Baker Mayfield was having a very solid outing through three quarters last week, but then a multitude of things got to him in the fourth quarter as he tossed three interceptions and a pick six. Mayfield isn’t afraid to let his arm do the talking, but that can bite him when defenses are ready for it. Mayfield debuted in prime time last year with a win, so let’s hope he can get his first win in 2019 in the same manner (note: technically, that win last year went to Tyrod Taylor).
- The Jets added Le’Veon Bell this offseason as their new starting back, and much like his time with the Steelers, it looks like he’ll carry the workload offensively. In his debut, he ran 17 times for 60 yards (3.5 YPC) to go along with 6 catches for 32 yards and 1 touchdown.
- Ty Montgomery is the Jets’ backup running back. Formerly a wide receiver, Montgomery’s best year was in 2016 with the Packers, when he ran 77 times for 457 yards (5.9 YPC) to go along with 44 receptions. With the Jets, he’ll get less than a handful of carries per game, but probably not too many opportunities to catch the ball as New York deploys three-receiver sets all game.
- Cleveland is operating thin at the running back position this week, although it’s possible that we will see a late call-up to the active roster since Dontrell Hilliard is battling a concussion. Nick Chubb ran well in his first game of the season, and he’ll have a few more running lanes against the Jets, where the strength of the ground game is on inside runs right now. D’Ernest Johnson will be the backup (I’d still love to have Duke Johnson back).
Wide Receiver / Tight End
- The Jets’ operated out of a three-receiver set last week for almost the entire game, with slot man Jamison Crowder leading the way with 14 catches for 99 yards. The Jets’ other two receivers were Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa, the latter of whom is now out for the season.
- The Jets traded for Demaryius Thomas during the week; normally, I would say that the combination of a backup quarterback and a new receiver to a roster isn’t a good one, but Thomas was Siemian’s top receiver for two years in Denver. Ryan Griffin comes over from the Texans to be the Jets’ new tight end.
- The Browns will have their top two receivers available against the Jets in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and that alone is enough to give Cleveland the receiving edge. Even though it’s not against the Giants, Beckham will have some extra fire in his belly playing in the stadium he used to call home (among the other things that should motivate him this week). Rashard Higgins’ status for Monday’s game is still up-in-the-air, as he tries to come back from an ankle injury suffered in Week 1.
- Mayfield probably has better chemistry with Higgins than anyone else on the team, so Higgins’ availability is important. If he can’t go, then Damion Ratley probably steps in again — although Taywan Taylor will probably suit up for the first time as well. It’s a two-way street when it comes to David Njoku needing to have a better game. He needs to catch every pass thrown his way, but Mayfield should also know to take a little bit off the balls that he zips over the middle to him. Lastly, I really hope Cleveland goes back to using 12 personnel this week a lot more (two tight ends).
- The Jets’ starting offensive line includes LT Kelvin Beachum, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Ryan Kalil, RG Brian Winters, and RT Brandon Shell. Overall, the unit can pass protect fairly, and are really helped by the additions of Osemele and Kalil on the interior. As our Jets affiliate points out, though, the run blocking in subpar. Bell’s talent will compensate for some of that, but not all of it.
- The Browns must get better play out of their offensive tackles this week. For Greg Robinson, it’s more so about not kicking people in the damn head. Chris Hubbard’s performance last week was very poor, and perhaps masked a little bit at the end of last season by having a talented right guard beside him. I don’t expect Cleveland to adjust personnel on the offensive line yet, but they should throw away what they tried to do in Week 1 from a scheming standpoint and go back to what worked in the second half of 2018.
Defensive Line / Linebacker
- I made the decision to combine the defensive line / linebacker categories into more of a “front seven” ranking. There are just too many different styles of play defensively to make an apples-to-apples comparison on just the defensive line or just the linebackers. For example — the Browns will basically have two linebackers only; how do I compare that to every other team that has three or four? It is better to merge the two units (for ranking purposes).
- The Jets run a 4-3 defense. Their starting defensive line includes DE Leonard Williams, DT Steve McLendon, DT Henry Anderson, and DE Bronson Kaufusi. I can’t make mention of that group without talking about DT Quinnen Williams, who was the third overall pick of the draft. Q. Williams bolsters the Jets’ run defense, but that impact might not be so immediate. He began the year as a rotational player on the depth chart, and left last week’s game with an ankle injury (but hopes to return for Monday night).
- The Browns were able to force a good amount of pressure against the Titans last week, but I think the frustration of how the game was going, coupled with all the penalties, made it difficult to have an appreciation for it. Cleveland’s defensive line is talented, but they were their own worst enemy last week with the penalties and playing beyond the whistle. Olivier Vernon played almost the entire game last week, but didn’t hit the stat sheet — that needs to change against the Jets.
- The Jets’ starting linebackers include OLB Jordan Jenkins, MLB C.J. Mosley, and OLB Neville Hewitt. Mosley is the big addition to that group, coming over from the Ravens this offseason. He was off to a stellar start in Week 1, but had to exit the game early due to a groin injury. He, like Q. Williams, is hoping he’ll be able to suit up for Monday Night.
- I feel like all we’re going to see this year at linebacker for Cleveland is Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert — which it is good that they receive the bulk of the playing time, but I don’t get not having any role for Mack Wilson, who was an early star of camp.
- The Jets’ two starting cornerbacks are Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, with CB Brian Poole covering the slot. Our Jets affiliate absolutely ripped their group of cornerbacks to shreds when asked about the team’s biggest weakness on defense. Here is what they said about Johnson:
“Johnson was acquired to be a #1 cornerback, but he has played more like a low end #2 cornerback. Johnson looks old, slow and on his last legs as an NFL cornerback. He cannot keep up with average NFL wide receiver speed, and is completely helpless against top end speed. Put Johnson up against a big physical and slow receiver and he can hold his own. Otherwise Johnson is a liability on the field.”
- That’s not even highlighting what they said about Roberts and Poole — but unless I’m being sandbagged, then Cleveland should win on the WR vs. CB battle alone. New York’s starting safeties are Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Unlike cornerback, Adams and Maye combine for one of the best exciting young duos at safety in the NFL. Adams is coming off of a Pro Bowl season, and Maye had a great Week 1 performance, per PFF (although he will be stuck with Gregg Williams’ deep safety role).
- Cleveland’s secondary was victimized by a couple of shallow and long crossing routes last week, but overall, it wasn’t the type of game where the unit was really “tested.” I am confident that Denzel Ward will rebound, but I’m not sure I’m quite into the rotation between Terrance Mitchell and Greedy Williams. That’s a position where I think the team should pick a guy and stick with it.
- Admit it — as a Browns fan, when you saw Austin Seibert miss the first kick of his career last week (an extra point), you laughed a bit, right? Because of course he would. If Cleveland’s kicking situation is suspect, then the Jets’ situation is just as concerning. Sam Ficken is the Jets’ kicker, just signed this week because they cut their previous kicker for missing a pair of field goals last week. Ficken has been around for a couple of years, but hasn’t kicked much in the regular season. He spent camp with the Packers, where he was 1-of-1 in the preseason.
- Lachlan Edwards is the Jets’ punter and is around the league average in punting. Jamie Gillan was a bright spot for the Browns last week, showing great hang time on his punts (along with the distance) to prevent any returns from being attempted.
- Trenton Cannon is the Jets’ kick returner, and Braxton Berrios is their punt returner. With Dontrell Hilliard likely out, we’ll see D’Ernest Johnson as the kick returner and possibly Jarvis Landry as the punt returner.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “The Browns have a lot of talent that should be able to beat the brakes off of the Jets, but it’s concerning how the team did not keep their composure last week. That energy needs to be directed in the right way, like when they used it to stick it to Hue Jackson and the Bengals last year — maybe they bring some of that same fire against Gregg Williams, instead of vice versa. At the end of the day, I see Cleveland’s offense executing more consistently and winning the way they should have in Week 1.” Browns 24, Jets 14.
Matt Wood: “Last week only strengthened my belief that this team is good. The Titans are a fringe playoff team and the Browns played like ass and hung with them for three quarters. Until the turnovers opened the flood gates it was a game.
Browns should have a lot of the minor stuff cleaned up. I expect Freddie to protect more against the Jets blitz and Baker will make them pay. Once the Browns get a double digit lead the pass rush will be able to show off.” Browns 31, Jets 13.
Mike Hoag: “New prediction: I think if we ran some tests on blood samples we’d discover that a lot of Browns QBs had mono over the years. That would explain a lot, but also unearth a ton of new questions. Hey, it would be more entertaining and worthwhile than investigating players wearing watches, the Lambeau Leap, or fan beer shower rules. Right? The only possible answer is yes. Trevor Siemien isn’t the worst quarterback in the world, but he’s no Marcus Mariota!” Browns 79, Jets 2.
Tom Moore: “The Browns will jump out to a 14-0 first quarter lead thanks to an 8-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Odell Beckham Jr. and a 2-yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb, and enter halftime with a 14-7 lead.
Cleveland will restore its 14-point advantage when D’Ernest Johnson takes the second half kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown. The Jets will continue to press the Browns, however, and cut the lead to just three points in the fourth quarter after Trevor Siemian hits Jamison Crowder with a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Browns fans will be sweating when the Jets take over on their own 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter and trailing by just three points. But linebacker Joe Schobert will seal Freddie Kitchens’ first win as a head coach when he intercepts a Siemian pass and returns it 25-yards for a touchdown.” Browns 31, Jets 21.
Jon Stinchcomb: “Shame on me having fell so hard for it all over again. These Browns have yet to prove anything at all. Until they prove me wrong, and damn do I hope they do, I’ll try to be as level-headed as I can be with these predictions, cautiously pessimistic. I can’t be disappointed if I’ve already accepted what history has shown is likely to happen.” Jets 17, Browns 15.
Ezweav: “We’re doomed. Last week was a nice little reminder that we’re never allowed to have nice things, and so it shall continue this week in the Big Apple on National TV. A week ago we had 19 penalties, meaning that this week the target is AT LEAST 20. Greggg will be playing Jamal Adams a good 60 yards off the LOS but somehow that still won’t open things up for Njoku, who stunningly finishes with 2 drops on 0 targets
Nick Chubb will rush for 469 yards however all but 30 of that will be called back by penalty (including the rarely heard: “Personal Foul - stabbing” called on Greg Robinson) . Odell Beckham will catch 14 passes for 67 yards, and Jarvis Landry will successfully convince Cj Mosely that deer eat “baby cereal”. Sadly, we won’t be able to capitalize.
Baker will be better this week but it won’t matter as Sam Darnold (and his stupid face)’s replacement will put up 3 fourth quarter TD’s (all screens) and the Browns leave with an L. By Tuesday fans will be clamoring for Jake Fromm (Statefarm)” Jets 33, Browns 22.
rufio: “Darnold is out, but the Browns would win anyway. It’s hilarious to me that people think the sky is falling after one week. The team looked like it didn’t really play at all during the preseason, which, yep. They out-gained the Titans and lost by 30. That only happens when you do incredibly stupid things like kicking/punching opponents in the face all game long and put yourself in terrible situations.
Baker, Freddie and the Browns will get back to the underdog mentality that led to wins that led to hype. And maybe they’ll learn that to win as the favorite you need to maintain that very same mentality. Nothing is given, everything is earned, and the Browns earn a win.” Browns 28, Jets 13.
Dan Lalich: “Overall play is still a little sloppy, but the penalties are down and the defense really settles in. The offense is still integrating all the new pieces, but Forehead McBadface throws a late interception to cement victory for the good guys.” Browns 11, Jets 5.
Barry Shuck: “I missed Week 1 with a visit to Clemson to see them take on Texas A&M, so I begin the season 0-0. Both the Jets and Browns defenses are similar, except the Jets did not allow 43 points scored against them. New York is having a hard time moving the ball on offense especially running the ball. This plays right into the Browns awesome front four, but the passing defense is suspect at this time with two many open receivers.” Browns 24, Jets 20.
BigTownBrown: “After being blown out week 1 by the Titans the Browns look to bounce back vs the Jets on MNF. Unfortunately for the Browns they come MetLife stadium and again under estimate an opponent. The Jets will build an early lead, mostly based on a continuation of flags by the Browns, but the Browns battle back in the 4th quarter and are in position for a game winning field goal. The kick........wide lift. ” Jets 17, Browns 15.
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.