Written by JD Bagley, @jdbagley5
After a disappointing home loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, the Browns look to regroup as they take a trip out to MetLife Stadium to visit the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. Cleveland’s most recent matchup with the Jets came during Week 3 of last season on Thursday Night Football in Cleveland, where the Browns came away with a 21-17 come from behind victory. Baker Mayfield was Cleveland’s hero that night after he came on to replace an injured Tyrod Taylor late in the 2nd quarter. Down 14-0, Baker went 17/23 for 201 yards and led the Browns to their first win in 635 days, opening the Bud Light Victory Fridge’s all around the city. Both the Browns and the Jets come into this game 0-1 with the Browns hosting the Rams next week and the Jets traveling to Foxborough to take on the Patriots. It’s only Week 2 but this game is HUGE for both teams and their aspiring playoff hopes.
First-year Jets Defensive Coordinator and former Browns interim Head Coach Gregg Williams will likely think back on his time in Cleveland, looking to put together an effective game plan to slow down Mayfield and the Browns offense. Taking notes on Titans DC Dean Pees tactics wouldn’t be a bad place to start. The Titans defense constantly switched up looks and coverages, confusing Baker and the offensive line, ultimately holding the Browns to 13 points. On paper, this Jets defense doesn’t have as much talent top to bottom as the Titans, but with questions on the offensive line for Cleveland, newly added stars Quinnen Williams and C.J. Mosley could wreak havoc up front if they are available to play. The clear and obvious key for the offense is protecting Baker Mayfield. If the Browns can handle that, they will have a very good chance of winning this game. But that’s a big if. It doesn’t look like starting LT Greg Robinson will be suspended for his kick to the head of Kenny Vaccaro, meaning he will resume the duty of protecting Mayfield’s blindside. Backup tackle Kendall Lamm who replaced Robinson very briefly last week after his ejection did not practice Tuesday with a leg injury he sustained in-game. It will be interesting to see if the Browns make any changes regarding who will be suiting up on the offensive line Monday night. 2018 2nd round pick C/G Austin Corbett who had a rough training camp was a healthy scratch Sunday, along with recently acquired G Wyatt Teller. Transitioning over to the skilled positions on the offense, Nick Chubb racked up 17 carries for 75 yards last week. That may seem like a healthy total for the 2nd year back, but the way the game was flowing it never felt like the Browns established the run game the way they wanted to. Ideally, Freddie Kitchens wants to run the ball more than throwing it, keeping the defense on their heels and making the play-action passing game more effective. Nick Chubb was a huge part of the Browns success on offense Weeks 9-17 last year, getting him rolling will help open up the defense for Baker Mayfield to do his thing. Another layer to the Browns success late last year was spreading the ball around to all sorts of different weapons. The addition of Odell Beckham Jr. should not change that philosophy. According to @Ihartitz on Twitter, Baker Mayfield didn’t target a player more than 9 times in a game once Freddie Kitchens took over as OC last season. Odell was targeted 11 times in Week 1. Understandably it was his first game in a Browns uniform, but forcing OBJ the ball as much as Baker did early on might not be the best way to get the offense flowing.
The Browns defense will look to bounce back from a rough week after surrendering 43 points to a decent (at best), Titans offense. It all starts with the penalties. Even leaders on the defense like Myles Garrett committed brainless penalties that kept drives alive, leading to the beatdown that was. If Cleveland can clean up their game, it’s tough to see this talented of a roster beginning the season 0-2, but it’s not all about talent as we know. The Browns are expected to be seeing a familiar face this week in former division foe, Le’Veon Bell. It has been reported by Rich Cimini, ESPN’s New York Jets reporter, that Bell won’t be practicing on Wednesday and will undergo an MRI on his shoulder. Head Coach Adam Gase still hopes he can play with the extra day to get ready. In his first game as a Jet, Bell rushed 17 times for 60 yards and added 6 receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. If he can play Monday, Bell is far and away the most lethal playmaker on this Jets offense, slowing him down will give Cleveland the best chance at success, something they have not had against Bell dating back to his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It has also been reported by multiple sources that Jets QB Sam Darnold will not play Monday vs the Browns due to mono. Backup QB Trevor Siemian will make the start for New York who has already been hit with the injury bug pretty heavily early on this season. This is a huge opportunity for the Browns defense to get back on track, have a big game, and boost the confidence of this unit after a poor Week 1 performance. With Bell being questionable and WR Quincy Enunwa on IR with a neck injury, the most heavily involved player on this offense will likely be Jamison Crowder who saw 17 targets in Week 1 vs Buffalo. The next closest was Bell with 9 targets, who may not even play. Browns LB’s and nickel T.J. Carrie will be relied on to hold Crowder in check in the slot.
Looking at this stand-alone Monday night game holistically, with all the recent news coming out about Sam Darnold possibly being out for multiple weeks, combined with the reported injuries to Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley, and Quinnen Williams, this is a must-win game for the Browns. Especially in the prime time slot, Cleveland has the opportunity to rewrite the narrative on their Week 1 struggles and show the national audience what this team is truly capable of. The biggest storyline for the Browns in this game will be disciplined football, can this team avoid beating themselves. I’d bet the farm that Freddie Kitchens is harping this in practice, knowing if they can cut that out of their game this team will be very successful. How will the players respond Monday night? Can’t wait to find out.