Writer: Mike Lukas
The 0-1-1 Cleveland Browns will lose to the 1-1 New York Jets on Thursday Night Football and they’ll keep on failing to win if they continue to do the following:
Run better than they throw
As uncreative as offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s game plans have seemed (another screen pass or run up the middle, anyone?), they’ve at least been fairly balanced between the running and passing games. In their two 2018 matchups, the Browns have run the ball 65 times and attempted to pass 70 times but to very unbalanced results. They’ve run for 135 yards per game (ranked 4th in the NFL) but have only caught for 192 yards per game (ranked 27th).
And that brings us to…
Drop balls and miss passes
Against Pittsburgh in Week 1, wide receiver Jarvis Landry was targeted 15 times but only caught 7 of them. In the same game, tight end David Njoku was targeted 7 times but only caught 3 balls, Rashard Higgins only managed to catch 1 of the four balls thrown to him and Antonio Callaway missed the one ball tossed his way.
All four receivers did better against New Orleans, but still, Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor has only completed 52.9% of his passes. Against a Jets defense that ranks 8th in passing yards allowed per game, he’s got to throw better and the Browns receivers need to hang on to a lot more balls if they ever expect to win.
Allow the quarterback to be sacked
It hasn’t been easy replacing future HOF left tackle Joe Thomas, the evidence being the 10 sacks the Browns have allowed in just two games.
Kudos to quarterback Tyrod Taylor for continuing to be fearless under center, but don’t expect him to survive much more of that kind of punishment.
Assume the defense will win the game
Although it’s wonderful to have a defense that’s capable of keeping opponents to 21 points per game (tied for 12th best in the league), let’s not count on it to win games.
It’s up to the Browns offense to score points, but they’re only averaging 19.5 per game (tied for 24th).
Compare that to the rest of the AFC Central – Baltimore Ravens (35.0 per game), Cincinnati Bengals (34.0 per game) and Pittsburgh Steelers (29.0 per game) and it’s obvious the current Browns are being mathematically dominated by their conference.
Blame the kicker – any kicker – for losing a football game
There’s no doubt that Zane Gonzalez blew two games for the Browns, but if the whole team were playing to its full potential, neither game would have come down to a kick.
New kicker Greg Joseph may or may not do better in the clutch, but hopefully, if the Browns’ offense does its job and scores more points, we’ll never have to find out.
Bottom line: Taylor and Co. will finally step up and finally outscore an opponent, while the Browns defense, led by Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi, will sack Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold brutally and repeatedly.
Final Score: Browns 21, Jets 14