February 20, 2024

It’s the Browns home opener, that’s why I’m watching. This week Cleveland hosts the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium for a 1:00 p.m. (EST) game. Last week, the Browns beat the Carolina Panthers 26-24 and the Jets lost to the Baltimore Ravens 24-9. The score of that game is a little misleading because the score was 10-3 Ravens at halftime. As with the Panthers, the Jets are not as bad as they seem. So, what am I watching?

Browns Offense Vs. Jets Defense. The Jets will rotate eight players on the defensive line to keep the players fresh. Three of their four interior defensive linemen are first-round draft selections. Against the Ravens, they blitzed about 17% of the time. The Jets love to blitz on third down and held Baltimore to 5/13 (38%) on third down.

Also, against the Ravens, the Jets played cover three 75% of the time. They have good linebackers (Quincey Williams, C.J. Mosley & Kwon Alexander) who can help stop the run. In the secondary, their cornerbacks are very talented (D.J. Reed & Sauce Gardner), but their safeties (Lamarcus Joyner & Jordan Whitehead) struggled in coverage. The Browns offense will have to feature more play-action. Against the Panthers, Cleveland was one of five on play action for one yard for one touchdown. This will slow down the pass rush of the Jets. It will also help in the run game and getting first downs. Because of the Jets blitz, the Browns must convert first downs without having to do it on third down. In 2021, the Browns converted third downs to first downs about half the time. In game one, the Browns were in third down about 75% of the game. To counter the cover three, the Browns will have to use screen passes and feature their talented tight ends. The Jets did a great job of stopping the Ravens rushing attack, but I would still run the ball with both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield. Hopefully, the Browns offense will be less chaotic and have a quicker tempo this week.

Browns Defense Vs. Jets Offense. In Week One, the Jets with QB Joe Flaco were in the shotgun 73% of the time. Their offense line is strong up the middle (guards Laken Tomlinson & Alijah Vera-Tucker and center Connor McGovern) and weak at tackle (LT George Fant and RT Max Mitchell) They want to establish the run and against the Ravens they came out in three tight end sets ten times. In 2021, the Jets were in three tight end sets only nine times all year. As the Jets starter, Flaco is 0-6. When he has a clean pocket, he has an 80% completion rate. When pressured it drops to 26%. The Jets do have talent at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Wide receivers Corey Davis, Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore have the ability to get open. Add tight ends C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin and Lawrence Cager and if Flaco has time, it could be a long day.

Because of the Jets’ weakness at tackle, I expect Flaco to have a long day. Look for defensive coordinator Joe Woods to continue to line Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett next to each other. The Browns linebackers will have to play as they did against Carolina, covering the flat passes, playing the run on designed blitzes. The secondary will have to clean up the big plays. While Flaco isn’t as mobile as Baker Mayfield, they need to keep everything in front of them. Against the Ravens, Flaco attempted 59 passes.

The Browns and the Jets run similar defensive schemes; however, the Browns have better overall talent. On offense, I expect a cleaner, smoother offense and on defense, I expect an uptick in pressure due to the lack of talent at the tackle position for the Jets.

Everyone enjoy the game.

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