On Thursday night, the Cleveland Browns will take on the New York Jets at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. (ET) and will be televised solely on NFL Network. The Browns and Jets have played each other in four of the last five seasons and the Jets have won all four. I break down these five keys in order for the Browns to break that streak and win on Thursday.
Pressure on Sam Darnold
The Browns passed on Sam Darnold when they selected Baker Mayfield with the first pick in last year’s draft, so Darnold will be looking to show Cleveland what they missed out on. This is where the Browns need to take advantage, Darnold will be looking to press and to show out against the Browns. Gregg Williams will need to dial up pressure for the Browns to win this game. Gregg will make sure to get the linebackers to come on some crazy blitzes. Williams will get Darnold to look at some crazy formations to try and confuse the rookie and get him to make some mistakes. That is a major key to this game because if the Browns defense can get some pressure, then it could cause Darnold to turn the ball over, helping the Browns win this game.
Get the run game going
Except for one drive in week one, the Browns’ run game has been atrocious. Of the three main rushers, Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, and Nick Chubb, only Hyde has over 100 yards and none of them are averaging more than three yards a carry. Parts of this is on the offensive line, parts on the play calling and parts on the running backs themselves. The line needs to create some running lanes for the backs to get through and really make a difference. If and when the Browns do get the running backs going, it will allow Tyrod to open up the passing game and open up the field. Getting the run game going will open the entire offense to Todd Haley and help the Browns get their first win of the year.
Get Duke Johnson the ball
Over the last two games, Duke Johnson has touched the ball 11 times. This is inexcusable because Duke is one of our top playmakers on offense and needs to have the ball in his hands to do that. This is almost an exact extension of what happened last season, Duke did not touch the ball enough and it needs to stop. Duke Johnson is extremely hard to tackle in open space and the Browns have to get him involved if they want to be productive on offense.
Stop the run
Former Brown and current Jet Isaiah Crowell is one of the top producing backs in the league this season. Crow is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. This is 4th in the league in this category. The Browns are giving up 110.5 yards per game, which is 20th in the league. The Browns will need to be much better if they even want to think about winning this game. If the Jets are able to run the ball, it will just make it easier for Darnold, which in turn will make it harder for the Browns to win this game. It all starts with the defensive line and the linebackers, they need to plug the holes that the Jets offensive line will create. The Browns will win this game if they can control the Jets run game.
Get David Njoku going
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell that tight end David Njoku is struggling to start this season. Njoku has only seven catches and 33 total yards to show. Njoku has had key drops in both weeks and he needs to get it together if he wants to be a focal point in this offense. Njoku is one of the more athletic guys on this football team and he needs to show it. David has to get his hands to be better and catch the ball. If the Browns can get Njoku going and for him to be a focal point on Thursday night, it will surely help the Browns get their first ‘dub’ on Thursday night.
These five matchups and keys will be something to watch for on Thursday night, and the Browns should be able to come out on Thursday with a win in their color rush jerseys.