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Browns-Jets Marquee Matchup: New York’s Josh McCown vs. Cleveland’s Jabrill Peppers

JETS QB JOSH MCCOWN VS. BROWNS S JABRILL PEPPERS

McCown played for the Browns for two years and started 11 games. He won once.

He’s started four games in his first year with the Jets. He’s won twice.

McCown is still the flawed quarterback who has a lifetime 20-44 record. He’s also a 38-year-old with vast experience, a strong arm, sneaky athleticism and incredible leadership skills.

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“Josh has been playing great for us, very intelligent, playing smart football right now,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “Knows where to go with the football. He is great for us in the locker room and off the field as a mentor to the younger quarterbacks especially. He fits in well with us.”

The Browns had McCown under contract for this season but cut him in February. Coach Hue Jackson asked him to join his staff, but McCown thought he could still play and found a home in New York, his eighth team in 16 years. He signed a one-year, $6 million contract to open the season as the starter and hold down the fort until a younger replacement emerges.

He’s off to a strong start in the Jets’ stunning 2-2 start. He’s second in the league with a 70.1 completion percentage and has thrown for 826 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions, 12 sacks and an 87.8 rating.

“I’m just trying to be smart with the football and protect it as best I can,” McCown said. “The coaches are putting us in an opportunity to play efficient football and that is all you can ask for.”

He’s been at his best in the first half, completing a league-best 80 percent for a 118.3 rating that ranks third.

“He is playing well,” Jackson said. “He is playing within their system, doing a great job of taking care of the football and directing their offense. He is throwing it well. They are playing to his strengths. Josh is a good quarterback. You guys know how I feel about him so I am not surprised by anything he is doing. Very smart player, very heady player and I think those guys are following him.”

“A whole different guy, like younger Josh McCown,” defensive tackle Danny Shelton said.

In his two years with the Browns, McCown never won a game on the lakefront. It would be more salt in Cleveland’s open sores if he got the elusive victory with the Jets and dropped the Browns to 0-5 after likely their easiest three-game stretch of the season.

Peppers, the No. 25 pick out of Michigan, will try to prevent that. Peppers has gotten off to an uneven start as he adjusts to life in the NFL and so far away from the ball as the free safety.

“Every week, every day you learn something new. It’s just all a growing process,” he said. “You try to learn as much as you can, be a student of the game and apply it.”

Peppers turned 22 on Wednesday, and McCown will try to exploit his inexperience.

“If you’re good with your eye discipline, you’re good at reading your keys each and every down, you should be OK,” Peppers said.

If he stays disciplined, Peppers should have a chance for his first interception. McCown has thrown 72 in his 86-game career, including 64 starts. He’s also fumbled six times this year, losing two. The Browns need to improve on their two interceptions and minus-5 turnover ratio.

“On film, you see a lot of the same things you saw when he was here,” middle linebacker Joe Schobert said. “He’s a smart guy. He’s always known where he’s going, but if you can get after him and get some pressure, he’ll make some ill-advised throws or he can fumble the ball in the pocket. So we’ve just got to try to get after him.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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