(Three points of interest in today’s game)
HOW ABOUT NOW?
Coach Hue Jackson has been talking about getting the run game going since April. This seems like as good a time as any.
The Jets’ run defense was stout in coach Todd Bowles’ first two years but has fallen off this season, ranking 29th with 143.8 yards allowed per game. The Jaguars rushed for 175 yards and a 4.5 average last week in the Jets’ 23-20 overtime win, keeping the Jets off-balance with zone-read looks. The Browns use those principles and are desperate to get running back Isaiah Crowell untracked.
Crowell has carried only 56 times in four games for a sad but team-leading 134 yards and 2.9 average. Jackson said don’t dare blame Crowell.
“Anything that is going on with Isaiah, I take responsibility,” Jackson said. “Until we get this guy in a rhythm of running, it is unfair for anybody to question what he is doing. All of those questions can be directed at me. I believe in Isaiah Crowell. No question.”
The Jets have a familiar face that will be focused on keeping Crowell from hitting his stride. Linebacker Demario Davis played for the Browns last year before being traded back to the Jets in an offseason move that hurt Cleveland’s depth. Davis leads the Jets and ranks second in the league with 49 tackles, including three for loss. He has three quarterbacks hits, a half-sack and a pass defensed.
“Not surprised by anything Demario is doing. Demario is a really good player, really smart, studies the game,” Jackson said. “That is going to be a tough deal for us this week. We have to block this guy. He is a load when he blitzes, and he comes quite a bit.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio said he’s had a lot of battles with Davis as an opponent and teammate.
“It’s going to be interesting. We have some wrinkles for him ’cause he’s seen our offense a little bit,” Bitonio said. “Hopefully I’ll pull around and get a couple blocks with him.”
STAND YOUR GROUND
This game should have an old-school feel to it, with both teams seemingly intent on establishing the run and taking pressure off their quarterbacks.
The Jets’ run game erupted last week with 256 yards on 32 carries for an 8-yard average and will look to keep it going against a Browns run defense that ranks tied for eighth, allowing 87.3 yards a game. Bilal Powell carried 21 times for 163 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run. Rookie Elijah McGuire added 10 carries for 93 yards and a 69-yard touchdown. Veteran Matt Forte has knee and toe injuries, so the Jets will stick with what’s working.
“We were able to get through some holes here and there that broke,” Bowles said. “Bilal and Elijah did a good job going forward. You kind of go with the hot hand. You try to mix it up to make sure that everybody gets some touches, but if a guy is hot, then you kind of ride him a little bit.”
Coordinator Gregg Williams’ defense has fallen short of expectations the last two weeks, allowing seven second-quarter touchdowns. But he’s had a profound impact against the run, as the Browns are third in the league at 3.0 yards per rush. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton credited a new “mindset.”
“They run the ball, and we take a lot of pride in trying to stop the run. One of them has to give come Sunday,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “Obviously, it will be a fun matchup, a tough challenge for us to see where we rank. We have been doing a good job, so let’s see against one of the better rushing teams in the NFL how well we can hold up against it.”
NEW WEEK, NEW FACE
Forget building chemistry. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer is just trying to remember the names of his receivers.
Since the end of the preseason, the Browns have made six changes at receiver. The newest addition, Bryce Treggs, arrived Wednesday from the Eagles’ practice squad. He is expected to join a rotation against the Jets that includes Sammie Coates and Kasen Williams, who were acquired a week before the opener.
“It is definitely a new concept for me,” Kizer said. “I have always been taught — up until the NFL — the team that you step into the locker room with on Day 1 is typically the team you leave with, but now to be in the NFL and have the rotation of guys, it just brings a new complexity to the game. That is why we have to go out and we have to work that much harder during the week to make sure that we are developing and creating chemistry.”
The lack of timing and trust has been obvious all season, resulting too many times in miscommunication, incompletions and interceptions. Kizer and his stats have ended up looking bad.
“We have to support him every way that we can offensively, defensively and special teams to help this young man get a win under his belt because I think he’s doing some good things,” Jackson said.
The Browns’ record over the last 31 games, matching the NFL mark for futility over a 31-game stretch, according to Elias.
Completion percentage for Browns quarterbacks and the opponents’ quarterbacks.
Passer rating for Browns quarterbacks and the opponents’ quarterbacks.
The Jets are bad, but the Browns have been worse. Josh McCown actually gets a win in Cleveland. Jets 24, Browns 20.