Browns lose to Jets: 5 takeaways from the defeat


Sep 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor (25) and New York Jets linebacker Demario Davis (56) hit Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) and force a fumble during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns lost yet another season opener on Sunday, this time to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

It was an NFL-record 11th consecutive loss by the Browns on the season’s first weekend, and dropped Cleveland to 1-16 in openers since the club returned to the NFL in 1999.

Here are five things we learned from today’s game:

1. Johnny Manziel is better, but is still not good.

Manziel made some nice throws – notably the 54-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin – and looked better than he did last season in appearances against Cincinnati and Carolina.

But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to take over the starting role from Josh McCown.

“But overall, for coming in cold, he did some good things and there were some things he will regret.” – Head coach Mike Pettine on Johnny Manziel

McCown had some poor throws – most notably when he waited to long to hit Andrew Hawkins in the end zone – didn’t have a lot of zip on his passes, held onto the ball far too long when the play broke down (see his two fumbles), and didn’t always put the ball where it needed to be – there was an incompletion to Brian Hartline where Hartline could clearly be seen motioning to Manziel about the placement of the pass.

“Obviously the second half leaves a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth,” Manziel said, according to ESPN. “I’m disappointed with the second half, but I thought there were some good things, despite the turnovers.”

For a relief performance it wasn’t all that bad, and it is clear that Manziel is making strides after his disastrous rookie season. It may only be baby steps, but at least it is something.

2. What is up with the offensive line?

For a unit that everyone assumed was going to be the strength of the offensive, the line sure didn’t perform like one against the Jets.

Holding penalties, false starts, personal fouls, not opening holes in the running game, it was all on display.

It was even worse when you consider that there are now new faces among the starting five of Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Alex Mack, John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz, so there really should be no excuse for such a bad day at the office.

3. The run defense showed no improvement.

A year ago the Browns were last in the NFL against the run, giving up 141.6 yards per game.

The team spent money in free agency (Randy Starks) and the No. 12 overall pick in the draft (Danny Shelton) in an effort to fix the problem.

“Not good enough.” – Head coach Mike Pettine on the run defense

So what happened on Sunday? The Jets ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns against the “improved” Browns’ run defense.

All through the offseason we heard about how the defense was going to be better in the second year of defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil’s system but, for one day at least, they were actually worse.

“Ain’t no way to explain it,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “It’s disappointing. We didn’t play to our level. They made plays. Simple. We didn’t make enough.”

If the run defense doesn’t do any better than it did against the Jets, it really doesn’t matter what other problems the Browns have, it is going to be a long, long year.

4. The tight ends may be a problem.

The Browns targeted tight ends Jim Dray, Rob Housler and Gary Barnidge nine times on Sunday, but the trio only came down with four receptions – three of which were by Barnidge.

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Nobody is expecting these guys to be the second coming of Ozzie Newsome, but the one thing they have to is catch the ball when it is thrown to them.

Rookie tight end E.J. Bibbs was inactive on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if that changes for next week’s home opener against Tennessee.

5. Oh my, the run game!

What if we told you that a team built to run the ball had as its leading rushers … the team’s two quarterbacks?

Dovetailing with the poor offensive line play, running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson produced nothing against the Jets, with Crowell rushing 12 times for 20 yards (with a long of eight yards, meaning his other 11 carries netted 12 yards), and Johnson adding 22 yards on seven carries.

That is certainly not a recipe for success for a team that wants to “minimize” the quarterback position on game days.

“(New York’s) defense is built to defend the run. I didn’t think we were doing a good job blocking the run,” Pettine said, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group. “This is the type of team where you’re not going to hit runs consistently. It was tough sledding when Crow (Isaiah Crowell) carried the ball. But we didn’t do a good enough job blocking up front.”

OK, deep breath time, Browns fans.

It was disappointing and frustrating today, but it is only one game. On the bright side, with Pittsburgh and Baltimore also losing, the Browns are tied for second place in the AFC North.

If the Browns bounce back next week when they host the Titans, some of what transpired today will be forgotten.

But if the Browns play next week the way they did today? Well, Marcus Mariota will make what he did today against Tampa Bay – four touchdown passes and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 – look like child’s play.

Next: Browns fall to Jets 31-10