- Mayfield and the Browns were embarrassed by the Titans defense in Week 1. How will the NFL’s preseason darlings respond against the Jets on Monday Night Football in Week 2?
The second week of the season wraps up with the Browns visiting the Jets on Monday Night Football. Lest you have forgotten, QB Sam Darnold is out with mono, and Trevor Siemian will be starting under center for Gang Green. Here are three things to watch, plus a bold prediction and a score prediction.
1. It’s only Week 2, but this will be a telling game for the Browns. Last week they were embarrassed by a Titans defense that played conventional zone coverages but out of highly unconventional looks, rotating linebackers, safeties and corners any which way. Baker Mayfield struggled to decipher what he saw, perhaps because not all of Cleveland’s designs presented great answers. The most carnage came when Tennessee blitzed cornerbacks out of Cover 2—a pass rush and coverage pairing rarely seen. Now Mayfield faces Jets defensive coordinator (and former Browns defensive coordinator / interim head coach) Gregg Williams, whose foundation happens to be ... wait for it ... Cover 2 and blitzing—though not necessarily together. Given his history in Cleveland, Williams is also extra familiar with this Browns offense.
2. It wasn’t just the Browns who struggled against disguises and pressure last week—the Jets were also bullied into a reactionary mode of self-preservation by Buffalo’s barrage of edge blitzes. Many of those tactically exploited New York’s protection call. Sam Darnold, to his credit, showed poise and clarity throwing hot with clean blitzers coming, but the offense was still constricted to underneath routes. Now Darnold is out with mono. Intellectually, backup Trevor Siemian is more than capable of keeping this offense fully afloat. You can bet that head coach Adam Gase, who loves strategic battles with protections, has prepped Siemian for more edge blitzes, as those are integral to Cleveland’s fire zone foundation under new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.
3. It’s not fully reflected in the numbers yet, but Le’Veon Bell looks like his usual self. His vision and patience are always tremendous. And, being uncommonly strong for such an agile guy, he has outstanding contact balance. Browns athletic linebackers Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey must make a concerted effort to be disciplined in their run fits Monday night.
Bold Prediction: Cleveland’s defense registers at least five sacks.
Score Prediction: Browns 20, Jets 16
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