(Three points of interest in today’s game)
The Jaguars didn’t stop talking. The Browns kept listening, and making mental notes.
The Browns insisted their 0-9 record is all the motivation they need, but a little bulletin-board material provided by the opponent can’t hurt. Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson supplied it, as well as another reason to watch this matchup, when he went after his former team. Gipson ripped the Cleveland front office, predicted an 0-16 finish and talked about the Jacksonville offense “hanging 40” while the defense blanks the Browns.
“I think this defense is the best defense in the National Football League and unless you have a Tom Brady at the helm, I feel like any given team against us, we can pitch a shutout,” Gipson said.
Jaguars rookie receiver Dede Westbrook wasn’t as outspoken but did say he expects a 200-yard game in his NFL debut. When you’re 6-3, you can talk. When you’re 0-9, you have to take it.
“We get it. It isn’t going to change until we change it,” said coach Hue Jackson, who addressed his team regarding Gipson’s comments. “The only way you change it is you start winning.”
No. 1 pick Myles Garrett nodded with a wry smile when the Jaguars’ boastful claims were mentioned.
“I see it but I have enough motivation to play as it is and they don’t need to add anything to the fire for me to be ready to play,” he said. “Talk is cheap. You’ve got to go out there and prove it on Sunday what you’re going to do, whether it’s 200 yards or drop 40 on us, we’ll see.”
“When people get to talking, that just means you’ve got to talk louder with your pads,” defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun said.
A TRUE TEST
DeShone Kizer played his best game last week against the Lions. If he can say that again after this game, the Browns might be onto something with their rookie quarterback.
The Jaguars have a big-time defense that will test every aspect of Kizer’s game. It ranks first in passing yards (165.1), first in sacks (35) and tied for third in interceptions (11). In addition to an impressive pass rush, the Jaguars have a suffocating secondary. Gipson and cornerback A.J. Bouye have three interceptions apiece, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey has two. Ramsey is tied for the NFL lead with 13 passes defensed, and Bouye and Ramsey rank Nos. 1 and 2 in opponent passer rating, according to profootballfocus.com.
“They are talented,” Kizer said. “They have two corners who have proven themselves out there, which allows them to do a bunch of things within the tackles and has led them to become the sack leader in the league right now. It is on us to make sure that we are executing our job.”
The Browns will likely rely on the run, but Jackson said the passing game can’t be ignored. Kizer threw for 232 yards and a touchdown and led four scoring drives last week and has receiver Corey Coleman back after missing seven games with a broken hand. Kizer has cut down on turnovers and sacks lately and found the deep ball against the Lions. He’s ready to take the next step.
“Now it is about scoring as many points as needed to win the game,” he said.
Rookie tight end David Njoku was fighting mad when he let Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs come clean off the edge and plant his helmet in the chest of Kizer, bruising his ribs.
“Seeing him on the ground like that got me mad, and you can’t really fight in the NFL, so I’ve just got to take it out in how I play,” Njoku said.
Kizer appreciates the sentiment.
“That is my boy. He is going to stick up for me as much as I am going to stick up for him,” Kizer said. “His drive comes from a different way than most. He takes his personal relationships and his camaraderie with his teammates personally, and that is what kind of drives him out on the field. I am looking forward to seeing what he is able to do after the comments that he made.”
Njoku also wants to atone for a couple of incompletions on the sideline against the Lions, including one in the end zone when he failed to get a second foot inbounds. Njoku has 19 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns. That’s not the impact expected from a first-round pick, but he has seven games left to improve. Kizer said Njoku has the work ethic required, beating him into the facility Monday to watch film.
“The kid is a baller,” Kizer said. “He is going to come out with a vengeance and he is going to come back ready to make the plays that we were not able to make.”
Points allowed by the Jaguars in their six wins, including 17 last week. They’ve given up 87 in three losses.
Point differential for the Jaguars (226-134), which ranks fourth in the NFL.
Point differential for the Browns (240-143), which ranks last in the NFL.
Tashaun Gipson’s prediction of a 40-0 Jaguars win isn’t close, but 0-16 is still possible. Jaguars 20, Browns 17.