- Can Cleveland get one in the win column at home against New York? Three thoughts before a loaded Thursday Night Football matchup.
Will this be the game when Cleveland finally registers its first win since Dec. 24, 2016, or can New York come away with a road victory? Three things to know before the Jets visit the Browns on Thursday Night Football (8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network).
1. Another reason (besides what’s highlighted in Monday‘s extra point column) why the Browns should replace Tyrod Taylor with Baker Mayfield at quarterback is because the team isn’t incorporating Taylor enough in the running game. Taylor gives the dimensions of read-option and bootlegs—tactics that really stress backside run defenders—but we haven’t seen much of that in Cleveland’s first two games (most of Taylor’s 10 rushing yards have been on scrambles).
We HAVE seen a decent outside zone running game and creative “trap” game, where blockers attack defenders from unexpected angles, and that type of rushing attack can soften a rookie QB’s intro to the NFL. Deceptive runs like “trap” will serve the Browns well against the Jets’ second level defenders—Darron Lee, Avery Williamson and especially Jamal Adams, who are fast, aggressive gap-shooters. Make them guess wrong.
2. Sam Darnold has learned quickly from mistakes in each of his first two outings, which is encouraging for the Jets. He had the horrendous pick-six on his first snap at Detroit but then bounced back to give New York a strong bootleg passing game. In the first half against Miami, he had two awful throws into underneath zone coverage; the first was picked by T.J. McDonald, who baited the throw, and the other should have been picked by Brice McCain. But in the second half, Darnold was very poised and precise working against those same Cover 3 zone looks.
3. The Jets must make a more concerted effort to get top receiver Robby Anderson the ball; he’s been an afterthought in the offense so far this season. On Thursday they should line up Anderson on the left, away from Browns first-round rookie corner Denzel Ward, who has made plays in both man and zone coverage.
Bold Prediction: Jets safety Jamal Adams will be involved in multiple turnovers. He’s fast becoming one of football’s most dynamic defenders.
Score: Jets 23, Browns 17
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