BEREA — First impressions last.
At least until a second impression.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor played a clunker in his Browns debut, a 21-21 tie with the Steelers last week in the opener. He went 15-for-40 (37.5 percent) for 197 yards passing, a touchdown, an interception, seven sacks and a 51.8 rating.
“I am sure he will play better,” coach Hue Jackson said Friday.
While the cynics in the crowd are quick to point out he can’t play much worse, Taylor’s teammates and coaches have reasons for their optimism heading into Sunday’s game in New Orleans.
“He’s as resilient as they come,” said receiver Josh Gordon, who caught a 17-yard touchdown in three targets against Pittsburgh. “I expect nothing less than for him to bounce back in a major way. He’s as motivated as he’s ever been.”
Taylor was uneasy in the pocket, didn’t see receivers running open and underthrew a few on potential long-gainers, including an interception intended for Gordon late in regulation. The leaky protection, wet weather and lack of timing were factors in the uncharacteristic performance.
“First game, chalk it up to what it is,” Jackson said. “It was not a Tyrod Taylor performance.”
“I know he’s going to work his butt off because that’s what type of person he is,” right tackle Chris Hubbard said. “We’re going to get better, and he’s going to be well-prepared for Sunday. I know for sure.”
In 44 career starts, Taylor’s only other game below 50 percent completions was a playoff loss last season with Buffalo, when we went 17-for-37 (46 percent) against Jacksonville. He’s a career 61.6 percent passer and has the chance to get back to normal in the perfect conditions of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
That’s what Jackson’s counting on.
“The one thing I do like about Tyrod, regardless of what the game said, is he is very consistent,” Jackson said. “He came in, he is eager and ‘Let’s dive into the game plan and see what I need to do and where I need to get better at in some areas.’
“He worked at those things with the rest of his teammates. He is going to hold himself accountable.”
A lack of practice time with Gordon and moving pieces on the line hurt the cohesion of the offense. Taylor said the players understand where things went wrong, and that the second regular-season game offers the chance for “tremendous improvement.”
“Being a hair away on a couple of opportunities from lighting up the scoreboard,” Taylor said. “There were definitely some plays out there to be made last week.”
Receiver Jarvis Landry blamed the protection problems.
“We all were open,” he said of the receivers. “There are some situations where the pocket was collapsing and he had to get out of there. He got sacked seven times, so that’s also in the back of his head.”
Taylor rushed eight times for a team-high 77 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown, and will be even faster on turf. But the Browns need him to feel just as comfortable and be just as big a threat inside the pocket.
“He’s proven that he’s a great quarterback, that he has a lot of poise, he’s done a lot when it comes to being a smart quarterback in the league,” tight end Darren Fells said.
“I have all of the confidence in the world in Tyrod,” running back Carlos Hyde said. “He is one of the leaders on our team. He is definitely the leader of the offense. Where he goes, we go.
“Adapting his game, I think that he is definitely finding his rhythm with the receivers. Get that passing game going, and I think in this game we will put it all together.”
The Saints defense could present a perfect opportunity for a bounce-back for Taylor and the offense. New Orleans lost 48-40 at home last week to Tampa Bay and backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who went 21-for-28 for 417 yards, four touchdowns and a 156.2 rating.
“You learn from the game, and you see where you can try to attack and exploit some of those areas, as well,” Taylor said.