For the first (and only) time this season the Cleveland Browns will be on PRIMETIME TV, it will be for Thursday Night Football. The Browns opponent for this evening’s game will be the New York Jets, led by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. Cleveland’s rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield will be on the bench for this game in particular, but Darnold and Mayfield are primed to play each other a few times by the time their careers are concluded.
The Jets have owned this series against the Browns the last five times these teams have met. New York has outscored Cleveland 129-85 in their last five games. The Jets and the Browns have played the last three years consecutively, with the Browns losing the 2016 and 2017 matchups by a field goal.
New York is off to a 1-1 start after a beat down against the Lions on Monday Night Football on Sept. 10th and a hiccup against the Dolphins last Sunday, September 16. If the Jets play anything close to the way the team played in Detroit, the Browns will be in for a long evening. Cleveland is hungry for a win, however, essentially losing the last two games because of poor special teams play.
The Browns have to win this week, or some big-time changes could be coming with a 10-day break before playing the Raiders.
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is starting his third career NFL game and it will be important on too. Two teams passed on Darnold in the 2018 NFL Draft and both of those teams needed quarterbacks. The Browns filled their need at first overall with Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and the Giants opted to draft a “gold jacket player” in running back Saquon Barkley. Earlier this week Hue Jackson spoke to reporters on the decision of passing on Darnold for Mayfield. “We spent time with him (Darnold) and his family, and obviously, every quarterback. We feel very comfortable with the guy that we selected (QB) in Baker (Mayfield), and I am sure they do with him. He is a fine prospect and is going to b a fine player. I think they got a good one, but we feel we have a really good one, too.” To the Jets amazement, Darnold fell right in their lap and he has shown promise in his first two starts. Darnold’s first career pass was a pick-six interception on Monday Night Football but ever since that shakeup, his performance has been encouraging. The rookie quarterback, Darnold, followed his interception with 198 passing yards and two touchdowns on only four incompletions on 20 attempts against Detroit that night. Going against the Browns defense will be a big test for the rookie passer but he will surely be looking to prove Cleveland wrong of not drafting him first overall.
2. Browns 2018 third round pick leaving question marks after no impact
Chad Thomas, the defensive end out of Miami (FL) was the Browns 67th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Thomas has not made any contributions thus far after the Browns drafted him with hopes of the upside of a marquee player on their thin defensive line.. Thomas had a perfect opportunity to make an impact last week against the Saints with Emmanuel Ogbah (ankle) being sidelined. The Browns started veteran Chris Smith instead and even brought in two additional defensive ends off waivers because Thomas’ play in the pre-season was so poor. The 2018 third round pick, Thomas, was active against the Steelers but did not play. Thomas made his NFL debut against the Saints but did not make any statistical plays. It is early but not having any production from four out of the five Browns picks in the 2018 draft is worrisome. Mayfield will have his chance and Ward has been outstanding. Corbett was inactive in week one, Chubb is reviving hardly any touches, and Thomas is a ghost. Hopefully, that will change.
3. The turnover machine, the 2018 Browns making plays on defense
The Browns defense is off to a tremendous start to the 2018 season. The Cleveland defense has forced eight turnovers (five fumbles, three interceptions) in their first two games of the season. The Browns are +3.0 in turnover margin, which is the best in the NFL. The Gregg Williams led Cleveland defense finished last in the NFL in turnover margin last season with -1.8 turnover margin, only forcing 21 total turnovers on the season. The Jets have totaled five turnovers offensively through two games, which is tied for third most in the NFL. The orange and brown will have another great opportunity to add to their turnover total tonight. Expect Williams to make it difficult on Darnold to feel comfortable in his third career start.
4. Browns making a made a much-needed change at kicker
Second-year kicker Zane Gonzalez, the 224th pick in the 2017 NFL draft only lasted 18 games in orange and brown. Monday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Gonzalez was kicking with a groin injury that required an MRI — a costly risk. The Browns released Gonzalez, the Lou Groza award winner in college for the nation’s best kicker, after missing four place kicks against the Saints costing the team a win. Following a tryout on Monday afternoon, the Browns signed former Dolphins kicker Greg Joseph, who was born in South Africa. The FAU graduate, Joseph, was 15/21 on field goals in college with his career-long coming from 54-yards. Joseph spoke to Browns reporters earlier this week and said, “Absolutely. I have been working a lot. I have been busting my butt. I am ready to give it everything that I have. I know there is still room to get better, and I am aware of that. That is something that I am keying in on and definitely looking to improve my game out here and keep elevating it.”
5. Former Browns contributing on Jets roster
Former Cleveland Browns Josh McCown (2015-16), Isaiah Crowell (2014-17), Terrelle Pryor Sr. (2015-16), and Buster Skrine (2011-14) are all playing for the Jets currently and playing well too. McCown has mentored rookie quarterback Darnold and has been a big part of his early success. Crowell had 102 rushing yards on 10 carries for two touchdowns in his debut as a Jet. “He is a pro. Crowell is a good back. Obviously, he is averaging over six yards a carry right now. He has done some good things for them. He brings quickness, suddenness and speed. I think he is a tough, competitive person and a competitive player. We have to tackle him on Thursday night. They are going to give it to him, that is for sure,” said Jackson. Pryor was targeted eight times, catching four receptions for 84 yards against the Dolphins. Skrine leads the team in tackles with 14. It will be interesting to see how these guys play in primetime against their former team.
WR Quincy Enunwa
Enunwa was was targeted by Darnold 10 times against the Lions, which was seven more targets than the next receiver (Terrelle Pryor, 3). He caught six passes for 63 yards and a touchdown for New York against Detroit. Against the Dolphins, he was targeted 11 times for seven receptions for 92 yards. He is the young quarterback’s favorite target so he is likely to have an impact. He may be a good sleeper to look at this season for fantasy football
SS Jamal Adams
Adams was tied with the led in tackles for the Jets with seven against the Dolphins in week two. The second-year safety from LSU, Adams, had a sack and tackles for loss against Miami, included in his seven stops. Against the Lions, Adams had six tackles, a tackle for loss, and an interception. He will all be over the field on Thursday making plays.
LB Darron Lee
Lee had an incredible game against the Lions in week one, leading the team with seven tackles and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He scaled back a smidge against the Dolphins but is still the anchor of the Jets defense.
WR Antonio Callaway
I wrote earlier this week on why Callaway will have an increased role in the Browns offense. Callaway was targeted four times, catching three passes for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Saints, a promising performance for the troubled rookie. With Landry battling a knee injury, expect Callaway to have a prominent role on offense against the Jets.
K Greg Joseph
Joseph is taking the reins as the Browns kicker after signing with the team on Monday. Joseph will have all eyes on him for his debut after the Browns recently cut Gonzalez after costing the team a win against the Saints. Just make the kicks.
SS Jabrill Peppers
Peppers was the highest graded Brown against the Saints (74.7) and third highest graded player so far this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He has a 9.4 run stop percentage which is fourth in the NFL among safeties. The second-year safety from Michigan, Peppers, had five tackles including a tackle for loss last week.
Jets 17, Browns 21
I think the Browns steal this one in primetime.
I will be covering the game on my Twitter (@KyleKellyWFNY) and my Quick Hits and More Column will be up sometime this weekend.