After a disappointing and bizarre Week 1 loss, the Cleveland Browns will travel to East Rutherford, New Jersey to face the New York Jets under the spotlight of Monday Night Football. The “Gang Green” blew a 16-point lead in Week 1 versus the Buffalo Bills and are now littered with injuries, including starting quarterback Sam Darnold, who could miss multiple weeks with mononucleosis:
Jets injury updates:
QB Sam Darnold: Mono, out for Week 2, possibly multiple weeks
RB Le’Veon Bell: Out of practice today, getting an MRI on shoulder
DL Quinnen Williams: Not practicing today (ankle)
LB CJ Mosley: Left Week 1 (groin), no practice today
WR Quincy Enunwa: On IR
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 12, 2019
With the Browns looking for a hype redemption of sorts, we take a look at the three keys to victory for the Week 2 matchup:
1. Pressure Trevor Siemian
With Darnold set to miss at least Monday night’s contest, veteran signal-caller Trevor Siemian will be under center for the Jets.
While with the AFC West Denver Broncos, Siemian started 24 games over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, recording 5,686 yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 24 interceptions, and a 59.3 completion percentage. However, he hasn’t seen any regular-season game action since December 14, 2017, as he served as the backup quarterback to Kirk Cousins with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.
Although he has proved adequate as a starter on occasion, Siemian has struggled mightily during throughout his career under pressure, generating the following statistics over the two aforementioned time frames1:
The Browns had the third-highest pressure rate in Week 1 versus the Titans (46.7%), forcing 16 total pressures on quarterback Marcus Mariota. Now, they will face-off versus a Jets offensive line who had a 51.0 pass-block grade (27th) and allowed 16 pressures versus the Bills in Week 1.
The Browns defensive line is arguably the strength of this team. They have the opportunity to prove their worth by putting incessant pressure on Siemian, which should force questionable decisions and errant throws toward a limited talented pool at the wide receiver position.
2. Contain Le’Veon Bell
After a well-documented and publicized contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million ($35 million guaranteed) contract with the Jets this off-season, making him the second-highest paid running back in the league.
He played in his first NFL game in 603 days this past Sunday versus the Buffalo Bills and seemingly had little rust to shake off. The running back recorded 17 carries for 60 yards and six receptions for 32 yards, but don’t let the relatively pedestrian box score figures fool you- Bell is still among the elite at the position. Per Pro Football Focus, he had the following advanced statistics in Week 1:
As a result of the Darnold injury, the Jets figure to lean on the focal point of their offense even more in Week 2. If he can be contained, the Browns will have a high probability of victory.
3. Play All Four Quarters
The Browns were dysfunctional, undisciplined, underwhelming, pick your adjective in Week 1 versus the Titans. With that said, the team was still in the thick of it through three quarters, only trailing 15-13 with 2:10 left in the quarter. As the deficit grew and mistakes accumulated, the team showed a quit reminiscent of the ghost of Browns teams past.
As mentioned in my “By the Numbers” column, quarterback Baker Mayfield was stellar through the first three quarters of his season debut, but was an unmitigated disaster in quarter four. He holds the pulse for this team and must remain focused and compete at a high-level for the complete game. If he keeps his head and heart in the game for its entirety, others will follow and the team will flourish.
This game is not short on storylines, with Darnold’s diagnosis, Odell Beckham, Jr.’s comments regarding Jets defensive coordinator (and former Browns interim head coach) Gregg Williams, and the supposed over-hyped Browns.
I am reluctant to say it only one week into the season, but this a must-win situation for the Browns, as Joe Gerberry put it yesterday, as the team faces the Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, and New England Patriots over the next month and a half. The team has a good chance to prove their legitimacy if the above keys are achieved.