Have you spent your previous 20 Sunday afternoons reading a book or aimlessly walking around your house looking for guidance? Are you craving football? Well fear no more, because it’s back.
That’s right, the New York Jets (0-0) open the season on Sunday when they square off with the Cleveland Browns (0-0) at MetLife Stadium. The game will begin at 1 p.m. and will be broadcasted locally on CBS, with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green on call.
Not everyone may care to admit this, but the Jets and Browns are more similar than one might think. Both teams have troubling young quarterbacks, solid defenses and are led by defensive-minded head coaches. The Jets roster, top to bottom, might be a little better than Cleveland, but the Browns should make for a competitive game.
Getting to know the Browns
Did you know the Browns were actually 6-3 at one point last season? A tough defense and efficient offense, led by quarterback Brian Hoyer and stud receiver Josh Gordon, had Cleveland fans dreaming of the playoffs.
Things didn’t materialize from there. The Browns lost six of their last seven to finish 7-9. Hoyer left for Houston, Gordon was suspended for the year for another violation of the substance abuse policy, and quarterback Josh McCown was brought in to compete with Johnny Manziel.
McCown ended up beating out Manziel in training camp, thanks in part to an elbow injury that sidelined Manziel for several weeks, and will get the start Sunday in New York. The best season of the veterans 13 year career came in relief in 2013 for an injured Jay Cutler. McCown was in Tampa Bay last season, but things did not go well. McCown threw for 2,206 yards with 11 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 56.3 percent.
Quite frankly, the Browns have very little talent on the offensive side of the football. McCown’s top options are the likes of Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe. Their top tight end, Gary Barnidge, has 38 career receptions. Isaiah Crowell is a nice running back, but will he be able to get it done against the Jets run D?
What the Browns will do is play defense. Second year head coach and former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has a talented, aggressive defense. There are very few cornerbacks in the league more talented than Joe Haden, who will likely be seeing a lot of Brandon Marshall Sunday.
Also in the secondary is veteran enforcer Donte Whitner, veteran cornerback Tramon Williams, and younger corners like Justin Gilbert (looking to rebound after a difficult rookie season) and Pierre Desir. Cleveland had 21 interceptions last season, which was good enough for second-best in the league.
Pound the rock
Last season, the Browns defense let up 141.6 rushing yards per game, dead last in the league. The Jets shouldn’t get cute. Let Chris Ivory maul, and when he gets tired, let Bilal Powell maul. Or Zac Stacy. Or Tommy Bohannon. The point is, the Jets should have a lot of success running the ball.
An improved Jets secondary is going to have to find a way to force more turnovers. Last year, the Jets had just six interceptions… on the season. Even the most sound defenses need to be able to flip field position and get off the field quickly at times, and the Jets are no exception. With the additions of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine and the subtraction of Kyle Wilson, things should improve in that department.
The Jets are steadfast that Geno Smith won’t be ready until week 4, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick struggles in these first two games, I wonder if that timetable could change. Either way, it would be best for everyone if the former Texans quarterback gets into a nice rhythm early.
Rain, rain, go away
There’s a 60 percent chance of rain for Sunday. Bring your ponchos.