There’s no need to sugarcoat it. Anxiety is high headed into tonight’s game. The Browns are 1-32-1 over the last 2+ seasons, yet are currently 3 point favorites tonight vs. the Jets. It’s not ideal but I suppose I can understand it. The Jets took a step backwards last week, while the Browns almost beat the Saints, who don’t appear to be that good at all. The Jets are once again trotting out a rookie QB in Sam Darnold, and I guess the theory is Greg Williams and his Cleveland Browns defense should be able to confuse him and make enough plays to win the game.
The one thing I think people are forgetting is we’re still talking about the fucking Browns. The Jets didn’t look great last week, but I think we’re more than capable of handling the perennial (burning) dumpster dwellers in Cleveland tonight.
As for keys to a Jets’ victory tonight, I’m gonna talk about them right now. I’m so glad you asked.
Our Offensive Line and Running Game Needs To Show Up Again
After a game in Detroit where the offensive line held it’s own in pass protection and helped pave the way for Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell to the tune of 169 yards on the ground, we weren’t able to run the ball for shit in Week 2 against Miami. It was incredibly discouraging, because we absolutely need to be able to run the football in order to help Sam Darnold be as successful as possible throughout the duration of the game and season.
If the Jets are gonna beat the Browns tonight, it needs to start on 1st down with some effective runs, which should enable Sam Darnold to counter with some play action throws and rollouts, something he’s already proven to be very good at.
It’s worth noting that 4 out of 5 starters on the OL were listed in yesterday’s final Injury Report, although everyone is expected to play. I’m not making excuses, I’m just trying to present the facts and get ahead of the story should they shit the bed tonight.
Sam Darnold Needs To Keep Learning And Getting Better
We talked about this after the last game. Darnold is gonna throw interceptions. He’s too trigger happy, and we need to embrace the positives that come with that. That being said, he can certainly improve on some of the mistakes he’s already made this season. I’m eager to see how he bounces back from his first career multiple INT game and if he looks even more comfortable reading and manipulating defenses.
I also think we need to attack Cleveland downfield more than we have so far this season. I understand that we had a hard time slowing up Miami’s edge rushers last week and it’s hard to attack the 3rd level of a defense when the ball needs to be out in less than 2 seconds, but it’d be a waste of Darnold’s talent if we didn’t start doing a better job getting the ball to our playmakers like Robby Anderson and Terrelle Pryor downfield.
Again, it starts with being able to move the ball on the ground, after which we can generate some opportunities to get the ball downfield with play action and deep drops. I love how comfortable Darnold and Quincy Enunwa have looked together so far this season, but we have too much other talent on the outside not to utilize it.
Jermaine Kearse is another week healthier as well, so I’m optimistic we’ll see him be a lot more involved tonight.
The Pass Rush Needs To Stay Hot
One of the biggest surprises this season so far has been our success in getting to the QB. The Jets racked up 5 sacks last week and they came from a handful of different starters and reserves on defense. That needs to continue tonight if we’re gonna contain Tyrod Taylor and beat the Browns in Cleveland.
Henry Anderson has been a frequent visitor of opponent’s backfields so far this season and I’m gonna be looking to see if he can keep that up. Jamal Adams had a sack last week and I think it’d be wise for Todd Bowles to continue to unleash him in different blitz packages. Leonard Williams is due for a dominant game as well, and Brandon Copeland should be fired up for another opportunity to grab hold of the starting OLB job opposite Jordan Jenkins. I don’t care who produces, but someone better do it.
Marcus Maye isn’t gonna play. Doug Middleton has been adequate as a replacement, so I’m not too concerned just yet. Same with Josh Martin, with the emergence of Brandon Copeland and Frankie Luvu.
Neal Sterling, who’s been starting for us at TE, is out tonight with a concussion, and that’s by far the most significant name on this list. Without Sterling, we’re gonna see a lot of Eric Tomlinson and Chris Herndon.
Tomlinson hasn’t been great in the blocking TE role everyone thought he’d quickly slide into, and he leaves a lot to be desired as a pass catcher. As for Herndon, he had a few flashes last week but also famously didn’t get into the end zone to end the half and also dropped a perfectly thrown ball downfield that quickly killed all the momentum the Jets were building in the 3rd quarter. It’s way too early to give up on him just yet, so tonight is a great opportunity for redemption. We’re definitely gonna need it, especially if Sterling continues to miss time moving forward.
I alluded to it at the start of this preview and I’ll say it again now. I’m pretty anxious about this game tonight because losing to the Browns and giving them their first win since 2016 would be so classic Jets it’s laughable. I can already see all the chirps and antagonistic tweets on my timeline tonight and it horrifies me.
Howevah, it’s easy to see how this narrative works in the Jets’ favor. Nobody wants to be the team that finally loses to the Browns. The Jets sure as hell don’t want to be that team tonight after starting the season so hot in Detroit. This young roster has too much pride to let that happen, and I’m sure the coaching staff has been trying to push those buttons all week in practice. To put it simply, we can’t lose this game tonight if we plan on changing the narrative surrounding this roster for good in 2018.
For that reason alone, I think we’re gonna win it on national TV tonight. We’re currently undefeated on national TV so far this season, so that also works in our favor. I think we contain Tyrod Taylor and force a few turnovers, and I think we get back to running the ball effectively and see Sam Darnold pick apart Cleveland’s secondary with some calculated shots downfield and effective play action looks. Quincy Enunwa keeps balling, Robby Anderson has his moments, and the defense continues to wreak havoc in the backfield.
You heard it here first.